John Bosco (August 16, 1815 - January 31, 1888) was a priest and educator. He is the founder of the Salesian Society (the Salesians of Don Bosco / SDB) and, with Mary Domenica Mazzarello, co-founder of the Salesian Sisters (the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians / FMA). He is popularly known as Don Bosco (Father Bosco). His name in Italian is Giovanni Melchior Bosco.
He was born in in Becchi, near Castelnuovo, Piedmont, Italy. His father died when he was only two years old, and so he and two brothers were raised in poverty by their mother, Margaret. Since they were poor, he was not able to attend formal classes, but in between work in the fields, he was able to receive instruction from his parish priest. At the age of twenty he entered the seminary and after six years was ordained a priest.
He was assigned as an assistant parish priest in Turin, and saw firsthand the condition of the children in the streets and in the prisons, who were resigned to a life of poverty and petty crime. He resolved to help them and started befriending a few boys from the streets, talking to them, taking them on walks around Turin, and instructing them on catechism. He believed that the way to teach the boys was not through punishment but through kindness, and so more and more boys were drawn to him. Among his early pupils was another saint, Dominic Savio.
As the number of his pupils grew, he needed to find a suitable location to conduct his work, and, after moving through various places, finally settled on a rough shed, which he called the Oratory. He moved in nearby and was soon joined by his mother in his work. Once the municipal authorities recognized the value of his work, he was able to find funds to establish a trade school and workshops.
In 1868, the same year that he began building a church in the Valdocco district of Turin, fifty priests and teachers who had been assisting him formed a society under a common rule which Pope Pius IX, provisionally in 1869, and finally in 1874, approved. He called this Salesian Society, after St Francis de Sales. Four years later, with Mary Domenica Mazzarello, he established an order for women, to care for abandoned girls. He also established an association for lay people who are interested in aiding their work.