Matthias Alexander was
born at Wynyard, Tasmania in 1869. His family owned and farmed a
large tract of land and as a youngster, Alexander developed many
skills associated with that upbringing. Possibly the most valuable of these
was self reliance or ‘nous’ as he referred to it.
A passion for
Shakespeare from an early age led him to a career in ‘dramatic recitation’.
However whilst still an amateur in this profession he was troubled by recurrent
loss of voice whilst performing and also audible gasping for air, anathema
for any actor.
Unable to obtain
lasting solutions from conventional sources, Alexander began to study his
habits of reciting with the aid of mirrors. As he gathered more information
by this method he realized that he was dealing with a much greater problem.
This was he
clearly saw, an unconscious habitual response to the stimulus to recite
which was interfering with not only the mechanisms of vocal production,
but his whole postural and movement pattern. In observing other people
Alexander found the same conditions, the difference being only one
In a long
and detailed study following these observations, Alexander taught himself
to inhibit this interference response. As he became more skilled at this
he found his vocal problems tending to disappear and he also became free
of quite debilitating respiratory problems he had endured since childhood.
He became widely
known in Australia as the ‘breathing man’ and other people flocked to him
to learn what he had discovered. Coming to the attention of medical and
educational experts in Sydney, Alexander was advised to take his
discovery to England for fear it would not receive international recognition
if he remained in Australia. In 1904, Alexander moved to London where he
quickly became well known. Although its popularity fluctuated his work
became well established in the U.K. and in America with support from
many prominent medical men and others such as Aldous Huxley, George Bernard
Shaw and famous US philosopher John Dewey.
Again at his
supporters request, Alexander began training others to teach his work in
the 1930’s. The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) was
formed in London in the 1950s and affiliated societies have developed in
many countries as the work has continued to spread internationally.
in 1955 at age 86 after a brief bout of pneumonia. He was teaching up until
the week before his death. His work is detailed in four books that he wrote,
plus many articles. His legacy is continuing to spread and is bringing
benefit to many thousands of people all over the world.