F. Matthias Alexander
Frederick Matthias Alexander (20 January 1869 – 10 October 1955) was an Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n actor who developed the educational process that is today called the Alexander Technique
Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique teaches the ability to improve physical postural habits, particularly those that have become ingrained and conditioned responses...

 – a form of education that is applied to recognize and overcome reactive, habitual limitations in movement and thinking.

Early life

Alexander was born on a large, isolated farm at a settlement called Alexandria on the northern bank of the Inglis River, near the present-day town of Wynyard
Wynyard, Tasmania
Wynyard is a rural town on the north-west coast of Tasmania, Australia. It lies west of Burnie on the Bass Highway at the mouth of the Inglis River....

, Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

, the oldest of eight children. He was a precocious child, and, suffering from respiratory problems, was taken out of school to be educated privately. As his health began to improve at around age nine, he developed an affinity to horses, eventually becoming adept at training and managing them. He also developed a love for theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

, particularly Shakespeare, which would lay the foundations for his future career.

At age sixteen, financial pressures forced Alexander to forsake his rural life, moving him to the mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

 town of Mount Bischoff. He worked at a variety of jobs in the daytime, and in the evenings entertained himself studying drama and teaching himself the violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....


The Melbourne Years

After three years he moved to Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

, continuing his dramatic and musical training under the city's best teachers. During this period he spent his time visiting theatres, concerts, and art galleries, in addition to organizing his own amateur dramatic company in his spare time. After his money ran out, he worked odd jobs to support himself. However, a combination of recurrent illness, distaste for commercial life, and what was then a violent temper ensured that he never held any job for very long.

In his early twenties, he decided to devote himself to a career as an actor and reciter. He soon established an excellent reputation, giving recitals and producing plays. His specialty at the time was a one-man show of dramatic and humorous pieces heavily laced with Shakespeare.
In 1897 Alexander rented a teaching room in Melbourne's first skyscraper
A skyscraper is a tall, continuously habitable building of many stories, often designed for office and commercial use. There is no official definition or height above which a building may be classified as a skyscraper...

, a landmark building at 49 Elizabeth St , known as the Australian Building. He was assisted by Lilian Twycross
who was also his student and performed in the recitals that he set up for his pupils at the Athenaeum Hall   on Collins St
Collins Street, Melbourne
Collins Street is a major street in the Melbourne central business district and runs approximately east to west.It is notable as Melbourne's traditional main street and best known street, is often regarded as Australia's premier street, with some of the country's finest Victorian era buildings.The...


Development of his technique

In the 1890s, Alexander began to progressively lose his voice
Human voice
The human voice consists of sound made by a human being using the vocal folds for talking, singing, laughing, crying, screaming, etc. Its frequency ranges from about 60 to 7000 Hz. The human voice is specifically that part of human sound production in which the vocal folds are the primary...

 during his performances as a Shakespearean orator
Oratory is a type of public speaking.Oratory may also refer to:* Oratory , a power metal band* Oratory , a place of worship* a religious order such as** Oratory of Saint Philip Neri ** Oratory of Jesus...

. Over time, it would become increasingly hoarse. As his career depended on his ability to project his voice, he faced the possibility of having to retire. He sought advice from voice coaches, doctors and specialists without results, and finally attempted to resolve the problems himself.

Alexander felt that his physical actions were to blame for the problem, and so he arranged mirrors so that he could observe his actions in detail as he performed. As he did this, he discovered his physical use of his body was not as he perceived it, and the resolutions to his tensions and misuses were not what he expected. The detail of his discoveries are documented in his third and most popular publication, The Use of the Self, published in 1932. After discovering this, Alexander found that his Asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

 symptoms were greatly reduced, to the extent that it was no longer a concern.

Alexander continued to develop his theories throughout his life, developing such concepts as the primary control, verbal visualization, avoiding reaction during speaking, and using modeling in teaching. He wrote several other books and instructed many students.

There are now many books written about, and expanding on the Alexander Technique.

Famous students

Many famous actors, writers, politicians and philosophers were his students.

Items on sale at the auction of the Alexander Estate include signed photographs from artists, actors and actresses:
  • cartoonist and illustrator Ronald Searle
    Ronald Searle
    Ronald William Fordham Searle, CBE, RDI, is a British artist and cartoonist, best known as the creator of St Trinian's School. He is also the co-author of the Molesworth series....

    , an original drawing of F. M. Alexander, signed and with the comment "Ronald Searle 1953. For F. M. from the reconstituted artist, with thanks," Reproduced in F. M. Alexander's The Universal Constant in Living (Mouritz, 2000, London)
  • artist Ruth Beardmore, Penhill House, and a Laburnum tree in Penhill gardens, both in cross-stitch tapestry, about 1944
  • actress Sarah Brooke, an autographed photo "A thousand thanks dear Mr. Alexander for all your trouble" (about 1905)
  • actor H. B. Irving, son of actor Henry Irving
    Henry Irving
    Sir Henry Irving , born John Henry Brodribb, was an English stage actor in the Victorian era, known as an actor-manager because he took complete responsibility for season after season at the Lyceum Theatre, establishing himself and his company as...

    , an autographed photo "To F. M. Alexander for his ... ? 1907"
  • actress Viola Tree
    Viola Tree
    Viola Tree was an English actress, singer, playwright and author. Daughter of the actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree, she made many of her early appearances with his company at His Majesty's Theatre...

     (1885–1938, daughter of Herbert Beerbohm Tree
    Herbert Beerbohm Tree
    Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree was an English actor and theatre manager.Tree began performing in the 1870s. By 1887, he was managing the Haymarket Theatre, winning praise for adventurous programming and lavish productions, and starring in many of its productions. In 1899, he helped fund the...

    ), an autographed full-length photo "To Matthias Alexander with many thanks from Viola Tree 1909"
  • actress Lily Brayton
    Lily Brayton
    Elizabeth "Lily" Brayton was an English actress, known for her performances in Shakespeare plays and for her nearly 2,000 performances in the World War I hit musical Chu Chin Chow.-Early years:...

    , an autographed photo "...yours fully Lily Brayton...", about 1905; and another photo "With many good wishes from Lily Brayton. Desdemona", about 1909.
  • Shakespearean actress Nora Kerin (1881–1970), an autographed photo "To my good friend Mr. Alexander with many grateful thanks, Nora Kerin. Juliet", about 1908

Other actors who consulted him were Constance Collier
Constance Collier
Constance Collier was an English film actress and acting coach.-Life and career:Born Laura Constance Hardie, in Windsor, Berkshire, Collier made her stage debut at the age of 3, when she played Fairy Peasblossom in A Midsummer's Night Dream...

, Oscar Asche
Oscar Asche
John Stange Heiss Oscar Asche , better known as Oscar Asche, was an Australian actor, director and writer, best known for having written, directed, and acted in the record-breaking musical Chu Chin Chow, both on stage and film, and for acting in, directing, or producing many Shakespeare plays and...

 and Matheson Lang
Matheson Lang
Matheson Alexander Lang was a Canadian-born stage and film actor and playwright in the early 20th century. He is best remembered for his performances roles in Great Britain in Shakespeare plays.-Biography:...


While living and working in South Africa, Professor Raymond Dart
Raymond Dart
Raymond Arthur Dart was an Australian anatomist and anthropologist, best known for his involvement in the 1924 discovery of the first fossil ever found of Australopithecus africanus, an extinct hominid closely related to humans, at Taung in the North of South Africa in the province...

, along with his two children, had lessons in the Alexander Technique.

The English novelist Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley
Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel...

 was strongly influenced by F. M. Alexander and included him as a character in the pacifist theme novel Eyeless in Gaza
Eyeless in Gaza
Eyeless in Gaza is a bestselling novel by Aldous Huxley, first published in 1936. The title originates from a phrase in John Milton's Samson Agonistes:The chapters of the book are not ordered chronologically...

 published in 1936.

Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein was an American writer, poet and art collector who spent most of her life in France.-Early life:...

's brother Leo
Leo Stein
Leo Stein was an American art collector and critic. He was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, the older brother of Gertrude Stein. He became an influential promoter of 20th-century paintings. Beginning in 1892, he studied at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for two years. The...

 called the Technique: "the method for keeping your eye on the ball applied to life".

The conservative philosopher and artist Anthony M. Ludovici was a pupil of Alexander's. Ludovici, sceptical at first, was sponsored by an admirer, Agnes Birrell, to have a course of lessons. He was the author of the first book on the Alexander Technique not by F.M. Alexander.

George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 was also a student of the Alexander Technique. Sir Charles Sherrington, Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 winner in physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

 a strong supporter and Edward Maisel
Edward Maisel
Edward Maisel He was born in Buffalo, New York. He went to Harvard University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude; he was also Phi Beta Kappa. He was an internationally known writer on music and t'ai chi. He lived in New York City for most of his life.He wrote Charles T...

,http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9802E5D9133AF933A05750C0A96E9C8B63 T'ai chi ch'uan Past Grandmaster
Grandmaster (martial arts)
Grandmaster and Master are titles used to describe or address some senior or experienced martial artists. Such titles may be, to some extent, aligned to the elderly martial arts master stock character in fiction...

, Director of the American Physical Fitness Research Institute and a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness wrote an introduction and made the selection from F. M. Alexander's writings published as The Resurrection of the Body.

Moshé Feldenkrais
Moshé Feldenkrais
Moshé Pinchas Feldenkrais was an Israeli physicist and the founder of the Feldenkrais Method, designed to improve human functioning by increasing self-awareness through movement.-Biography:...

 had lessons with Alexander.

Politician Sir Stafford Cripps, at the time he was British Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

, consulted Alexander. He and his wife Dame Isobel Cripps
Isobel Cripps
Dame Isobel Cripps, GBE , also known as Lady Cripps, was a British overseas aid organiser and the wife of Sir Stafford Cripps....

 were both his supporters.

General Sir Archibald James Murray had lessons. He was Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of WW1.

In 1945, Anthony Brooke
Anthony Walter Dayrell Brooke
Anthony Walter Dayrell Brooke, , was appointed His Highness the Rajah Muda of Sarawak on 25 August 1937, and succeeded to the title of Rajah in 1963 on the death of his uncle, Rajah Vyner of Sarawak the third and last of the ruling White Rajahs.Brooke was the son of Bertram,...

, the Rajah Muda of Sarawak, had lessons with Alexander.

Alexander celebrated his 70th birthday in the company of Lord Lytton
Victor Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton
Victor Alexander George Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton KG, GCSI, GCIE, PC, DL , styled Viscount Knebworth until 1891, was a British politician and colonial administrator...


In 1973 Nikolaas Tinbergen
Nikolaas Tinbergen
Nikolaas "Niko" Tinbergen was a Dutch ethologist and ornithologist who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz for their discoveries concerning organization and elicitation of individual and social behaviour patterns in animals.In the 1960s he...

 devoted about half of his Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 acceptance speech to a very favorable description of the Alexander technique and its benefits, including references to scientific evaluations. Tinbergen and his family had been students of the technique.

Personal life

Alexander's first rooms in London, in 1904, were at the Army & Navy Mansions in Victoria Street, London, where he built a thriving practice. In 1920 he moved a short distance to continue practicing at 16 Ashley Place, with the help of two teachers, Ethel Webb and Irene Tasker. From the start of the First World War in 1914, in order to maintain a constant practice, most years until 1924 he spent the Autumn and Winter in the United States.

In 1914 Alexander married Edith Page, an Australian who was the widow of one his best friends, Robert Young, and in 1924 he bought their home 'Penhill', a house with 20 acres (80,937.2 m²) of grounds, at Bexley in Kent, where he started the "little school" for children where his method was made fundamental to the school curriculum. It was not a happy marriage and he and Edith had no children. However Alexander had a son with Gladys Johnson, the caretaker of Penhill: Gladys, known as 'Jack.' Jack had married Owen Vicary, Edith's nephew, and after Jack and Owen had separated in 1925 and Edith had moved out of Penhill in 1929, Alexander and Jack became close; their son was born in 1931 and passed off as Owen's son, named John Vicary.

The first training course was started at Ashley Place in September 1930. and continued alongside his own practice until 1940. When the war came he lived and worked in the United States from 1940 until 1943, which was a difficult time as his teachers were disappearing into the services. Fearing that the technique would be lost, he returned to London in 1943 and successfully restarted the training course.

Libel case

It was this libel case, a drama drawn out over a period of some seven years, which dominated the last decade of Alexander's life.


In 1935, Irene Tasker, one of Alexander’s first students, arrived in Johannesburg
Johannesburg also known as Jozi, Jo'burg or Egoli, is the largest city in South Africa, by population. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa...

, deciding to teach the technique in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

. Her address to the annual conference of the Transvaal
Transvaal Province
Transvaal Province was a province of the Union of South Africa from 1910 to 1961, and of its successor, the Republic of South Africa, from 1961 until the end of apartheid in 1994 when a new constitution subdivided it.-History:...

 Teachers Association on the subject initially attracted much interest from teachers, soon spreading to others, and she set up a school to teach the Alexander Technique
Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique teaches the ability to improve physical postural habits, particularly those that have become ingrained and conditioned responses...

 to children. In 1942 her work attracted the attention of Dr Ernst Jokl, Director of Physical Education
Physical education
Physical education or gymnastics is a course taken during primary and secondary education that encourages psychomotor learning in a play or movement exploration setting....

 to the South African Government, and a writer on the physiology of exercise. Jokl asked Tasker to demonstrate the Technique to him, which she did (with witnesses, including Norman Coaker who later gave evidence in the court case) but declined to give him a course of lessons, instead suggesting that he go to see Alexander himself. Jokl, not being able to go to London, read Alexander’s books. In April the next year, in an address to the annual conference of the Transvaal Teachers Association, its President praised the Alexander Technique and criticized the established regime of physical education then given to children. Jokl, seeing this address as an attack on his profession, responded in a paper called 'The Relationship between Health and Efficiency' which he read to the South African Association for the Advancement of Science. He then had his paper published in ‘’Transvaal Educational News’’, with a reply defending Alexander’s work. In March 1944 Jokl wrote an article in the South African government journal Manpower (Afrikaans Volkskragte) entitled 'Quackery versus Physical Education' which described the Technique as, among other things, 'a dangerous and irresponsible form of quackery'. In August of that year Alexander was shown the article by Tasker, and responded with a letter to the South African High Commissioner
High Commissioner
High Commissioner is the title of various high-ranking, special executive positions held by a commission of appointment.The English term is also used to render various equivalent titles in other languages.-Bilateral diplomacy:...

 in London asking for a public withdrawal of the remarks and an apology. Having had no reply a year later Alexander then issued a writ for libel against Jokl, Eustace H. Cluver and Bernard Maule Clarke (the co-editors of Manpower) suing for £5000 damages for alleged defamation. Alexander was dismayed that the South African authorities announced the case would be defended, but however he expected a case to be won quickly.

Examination in London

As witnesses on both sides were British, it was easier for evidence on both sides to be presented before a Commission in South Africa House
South Africa House
The High Commission of South Africa in London is the diplomatic mission from South Africa to the United Kingdom. It is located at South Africa House, a building on Trafalgar Square, London...

 in London, but due to delays this did not happen until July 1947. Alexander and Jokl attended all the hearings. Alexander's witnesses included Duncan Whittaker, Dr Peter Macdonald, Lord Lytton
Victor Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton
Victor Alexander George Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton KG, GCSI, GCIE, PC, DL , styled Viscount Knebworth until 1891, was a British politician and colonial administrator...

, Sir Stafford Cripps, Dr Dorothy Drew, his personal physician J. E. R. McDonagh, and his friend Andrew Rugg-Gunn FRCS. Jokl's witnesses were Nobel Prizewinners Edgar Adrian
Edgar Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian
Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian OM PRS was a British electrophysiologist and recipient of the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physiology, won jointly with Sir Charles Sherrington for work on the function of neurons....

 and Sir Henry Dale
Henry Hallett Dale
Sir Henry Hallett Dale, OM, GBE, PRS was an English pharmacologist and physiologist. For his study of acetylcholine as agent in the chemical transmission of nerve impulses he shared the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Otto Loewi.-Biography:Henry Hallett Dale was born in Islington,...

, Brigadier Wand-Tetley, heart specialist Dr Paul Wood, bacteriologist Dr Freddie Himmelweit, Sir Alfred Webb-Johnson, Samson Wright, Lieut-Col S. J. Parker and Robert Clark-Turner. The trial was scheduled to be in South Africa in the autumn of 1947, but there was delay due to the defence counsel Oswald Pirow
Oswald Pirow
Oswald Pirow was a South African lawyer and far right politician, who held office as minister of Justice and Defence.-Early life:...

 having another matter to deal with, and the case was re-scheduled to the following March.

Alexander's stroke

Alexander wanted to go, and booked a stateroom in a Union Castle liner for himself. But that was not to happen. He was worried about the case, distraught over the death of his friend Lord Lytton in October 1947, and that autumn he had a fall which may have contributed to his having a stroke in December. A week later he had another stroke, was left with the paralysis of his left hand, leg and face, and doctors had little hope for him. He had to cancel his trip to South Africa. However, he made a remarkable recovery within a month, it was said by applying his own technique to himself. He wrote to Irene Tasker in South Africa, in a clear hand, telling her how much better he was.

In Court in Johannesburg

In February 1948 three of his medically qualified students, Dr Wilfred Barlow, F.R.S., Dr Dorothy Drew M.R.C.S (Eng), L.R.C.P (Lon) and Dr Mungo Douglas flew to Johannesburg to give evidence to the Court. Douglas did not give evidence: his place was taken by Norman Coaker, K.C. who lived in South Africa and, like Jokl, had seen Irene Tasker. There was great interest in the case. The papers reported all the proceedings, and every day the court was crowded.

On 16 February the action for £5,000 damages for alleged defamation opened before Mr Justice Clayden in the Witwatersrand Division of the Supreme Court
High Court of South Africa
The High Courts are superior courts of law in South Africa. The courts were created in 1996 on the adoption of the Constitution of South Africa, and inherited the jurisdiction of the provincial and local divisions of the former Supreme Court of South Africa...

. Mr H.J. Hanson, K.C. and Mr Abram Fischer (instructed by Messrs V. C. Berrangé and Wasserzug) appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr O. Pirow, K.C. and Mr M. van Hulsteyn (instructed by the Government Attorney) appeared for the defendants. In an introductory address Mr Hanson said that Alexander's technique and ideas had received favourable comment from such eminent people as Sir Charles Sherrington, John Dewey
John Dewey
John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology...

, Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley
Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel...

, Sir Stafford Cripps
Stafford Cripps
Sir Richard Stafford Cripps was a British Labour politician of the first half of the 20th century. During World War II he served in a number of positions in the wartime coalition, including Ambassador to the Soviet Union and Minister of Aircraft Production...

 and others. In his books Alexander taught what he had observed in his investigation into the use and mis-use of the body. He taught people to understand their own use, to unlearn the wrong way, as in the example of a person sitting at a desk having a tendency to hunch the shoulders by tensing muscles unnecessarily. Mr Hanson told the court that Alexander had recently had a stoke and would therefore not be able to give evidence.

Dr Barlow was Alexander's first witness. He described how he had hurt his shoulder in sport at Oxford, had tried various ways of remedying it, had read Alexander's books and realised that a problem was that people who used their muscles in the wrong way could come to regard that use as the right way. He went to London, saw Alexander, became of student and later a qualified teacher of the method. He had seen for himself in St Thomas' Hospital
St Thomas' Hospital
St Thomas' Hospital is a large NHS hospital in London, England. It is administratively a part of Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. It has provided health care freely or under charitable auspices since the 12th century and was originally located in Southwark.St Thomas' Hospital is accessible...

 in London how the technique could help in the treatment of bad muscular co-ordication or misuse, and quoted supporting text from recognised publications such as The Lancet
The Lancet
The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal. It is one of the world's best known, oldest, and most respected general medical journals...

, the British Medical Journal
British Medical Journal
BMJ is a partially open-access peer-reviewed medical journal. Originally called the British Medical Journal, the title was officially shortened to BMJ in 1988. The journal is published by the BMJ Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association...

 and the American Medical Association
American Medical Association
The American Medical Association , founded in 1847 and incorporated in 1897, is the largest association of medical doctors and medical students in the United States.-Scope and operations:...

's Journal.

Mr Pirow, for the defence, proposed that his case was that the article (by Jokl and others) represented an evaluation of Alexander's four books, which claimed to set out the technique and its philosophy, and contained not only mainly testimonials and sales talk advertising the technique, but in regard to his alleged discoveries of conscious and/or primary control, claims and statements representing dangerous quackery.

Pirow was expert at persistent cross-questioning, throwing leading questions at all Alexander's witnesses. Pirow asked Dr. Barlow: "Do you seriously contend, in the matter of conscious control, that anyone following fully its principles would become entirely disease free?" Barlow: "No-one suggests that man will become immortal." "Let us leave immortality out of it, and get down to fundamentals. Are you, as a trained medical man, prepared to accept as a reasonable possibility the suggestion that by the carrying out of the exercises of psycho-physical guidance by way of conscious control, one can get complete immunity against disease?" - "It might be possible...animals living in a wild state when they come to the end of their days do not suffer from many of the prevalent diseases." "So that by following the technique man would become like an animal or buffalo?" - "I am merely giving you my impression about the diseases which affect animals." "Do you seriously suggest that, as a result of psycho-physical quidance under conscious control, resistance to infectious disease might be better?" - "Well, yes." And Barlow said it was from his own medical experience. Pirow asked what conscious control was, about inhibition and their effects, to which Barlow was able to give confident answers.

Witness Dr Dorothy Drew, a London doctor, had become a convert to the Alexander Technique because of the benefit she had found to herself after undergoing a course. She had had been injured in a car accident when she was a medical student, and during the war her health deteriorated. She had read Alexander's books in the war and became a pupil of Alexander's. At first she felt pain, but began to feel increasing benefit. Alexander's sole interest was in repairing her body mechanics, and her health had improved. She had sent about 200 patients to Alexander, supplementary to medical treatment: she always showed them his books and let them decide for themselves whether to see Alexander.

Norman Coaker, who had been present at Jokl's demonstration lesson with Irene Tasker, was the next witness for Alexander. He described how his two sons had been helped by Alexander lessons: his second son with an injury from a fall onto stone, and his elder son with chronic bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the large bronchi in the lungs that is usually caused by viruses or bacteria and may last several days or weeks. Characteristic symptoms include cough, sputum production, and shortness of breath and wheezing related to the obstruction of the inflamed airways...


Tasker was Alexander's last witness, and at one point she found it difficult to give evidence and face Pirow's cross-questioning. Jokl himself was the last witness for the defence. The trial finished in March, and Mr Justice Clayden delivered his judgement over a month later. Alexander was awarded £1000 damages plus costs.

A year later the defendants appealed against the verdict and the damages. It was dismissed with costs, and the tone of the judgment was worded more in approval of Alexander than it had been originally.

Final years

Alexander continued to work until his sudden death in 1955. His funeral was at South London Crematorium, Streatham Vale. The practice at 16 Ashley Place was taken over by one of his assistants, Patrick Macdonald.

List of Alexander's students

First-generation teachers, those who were taught by Alexander himself, giving the year when they commenced training. The first (three-year) training course was started in his rooms at 16 Ashley Place, Victoria, London, in 1931. The courses ran until his death in 1955.

Alexander was always known as "FM" to his students.
  • Albert Redden Alexander, (1874–1947). FM's brother, known as AR. The first of FM's students and his assistant, staying in the US to teach.
  • Max Alexander, AR's son.
  • Lilian Twycross(1874-1943) An early student who taught the technique in Melbourne
  • Marjory Barlow (née Mechin), (1915–2006), 1933. Daughter of FM's sister Amy, and wife of Bill Barlow.
  • Dr. Wilfred "Bill" Barlow, (1915–1991), 1936. Founder of STAT in 1958.
  • Marjorie "Marj" Barstow, (1899–1995), 1931. Taught the technique in the US.
  • Goddard Binkley, (1920–1987), 1953. Taught the technique in the US.
  • Dilys Carrington (née Jones), (1915–2009), 1955. Wife of Walter Carrington.
  • Walter H. M. Carrington, (1915–2005), 1936.
  • Vera Cavling, 1948.
  • Eric de Peyer, (1906–1990), 1936.
  • Ellen Avery Margaret "Margaret" Goldie, (1905–1997), 1931.
  • Richard M. "Buzz" Gummere, Jr., (1912- ), 1944.
  • Dr. Frank Pierce Jones, (1905–1975), 1941. Taught the technique in the US.
  • Patrick J. "Pat" Macdonald, (1908–1992), 1932. Principal, The Alexander Foundation.
  • Gurney MacInnes, 1931.
  • Dr. Dorothy Stella Radcliffe Morrison (née Drew), (1908–1988), 1946.
  • Charles Neil, (1917–1958), 1933.
  • Douglas Richard Price-Williams, 1946. Social psychologist.
  • Peter Scott, (1918–1978), 1946.
  • John Skinner, (1912–1992), 1946. FM's private secretary.
  • Anthony Spawforth, (1919–2003), 1951.
  • Irene Stewart, 1931.
  • Irene Tasker, (1887–1977), Montessori School teacher. First teacher of the technique (in 1917) after FM and AR. Taught in South Africa from 1935.
  • Sir George Trevelyan
    Sir George Trevelyan, 4th Baronet
    Sir George Lowthian Trevelyan 4th Baronet, , an educational pioneer, a founding father of the New Age movement. After listening to a lecture by Dr Walter Stein, a student of Rudolf Steiner in 1942, he turned from being agnostic to new age spiritual thinker, and even studied anthroposophy in the...

    , (1906–1996), 1931.
  • Elisabeth Walker (née Clarke), (1914- ), 1936. Wife of Dick Walker.
  • Richard "Dick" Walker, (1911–1992), 1936.
  • Ethel Webb, (c.1885-1955), Montessori School teacher, at the same time (1913) as Irene Tasker.
  • Lulie Westfeldt, (1895–1965), 1931.
  • Catharine "Kitty" Wielopolska (Countess Wielopolska, née Merrick), (1900–1988), 1931.
  • Peggy Williams, (1916–2003), 1947.
  • Erika Whittaker (née Schumann), (1911–2004), 1931.


The four books of F. Matthias Alexander exist in many editions, being reprinted and revised, published in the UK and US, and not all editions are shown.
  • Man's Supreme Inheritance, Methuen (London, 1910), revised and enlarged (New York, 1918), later editions 1941, 1946, 1957, Mouritz (UK, 1996), reprinted 2002. ISBN 0-9525574-0-1
  • Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, Centerline Press (US,1923), revised 1946, Mouritz (UK, 2004) ISBN 0-9543522-6-2, ISBN 978-9543522-6-4
  • The Use of the Self, E. P. Dutton (New York, 1932), republished by Orion Publishing, 2001, ISBN 0-7528-4391, ISBN 978-0752843919
  • The Universal Constant In Living, Dutton (New York, 1941), Chaterson (London, 1942), later editions 1943, 1946, Centerline Press (US, 1941, 1986), Mouritz (UK, 2000) ISBN 091311118X, ISBN 978-0913111185, ISBN 0-9525574-4-4

Further reading

  • Bloch, Michael, F.M. The Life of Frederick Matthias Alexander, Little, Brown (London, 2004) ISBN 0-316-86048-4 ISBN 0-316-72864-0
  • Evans, Jackie, Frederick Matthias Alexander - A Family History, Phillimore & Co (UK, 2001) ISBN 1-860-77178-5


Selection of publications
  • STAT (Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique), The Alexander Journal (Issues 1-21 published at irregular intervals in the years 1962-2006)
  • Westfeldt, Lulie, F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and his Work, George Allen & Unwin (London, 1964)
  • Bowden, George C, F. Matthias Alexander and The Creative Advance of the Individual, L. N. Fowler & Co. Ltd. (London, 1965)
  • Barker, Sarah, The Alexander Technique, Bantam Books (New York, 1978) ISBN 0-553-14976-8
  • Barlow, Wilfred, The Alexander Principle, Victor Gollancz Ltd. (London, 1990) ISBN 0-575-04749-6
  • The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique Christopher Stevens The Development of the Alexander Technique and Evidence for its Effects, (STAT, 1997). An article summarising early investigations into the Alexander Technique and attempts to identify methods to measure its effects.

Applications of the Alexander Technique

External links

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