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Biographical entry Alexander, Frederick Matthias (1869 - 1955)

Born
20 January 1869
Table Cape, Tasmania, Australia
Died
10 October 1955
London, England
Occupation
Educator and Therapist

Summary

Frederick Alexander, initially trained as an actor, developed the 'Alexander Technique' in the early 1900s to solve the vocal problems that continually hindered his stage career. This Alexander technique is now used by many people around the world to rid of their bodies of tension and stress. Alexander never obtained any formal medical or scientific training.

Details

With a strong love of the theatre and Shakespeare, Frederick Matthias Alexander left his Tasmanian mining job to take up acting lessons in Melbourne. It was here he learnt the importance of controlled breathing, proper posture and voice projection. Alexander spent a few years in New Zealand in the early 1890s improving his skills and further developing his belief that correct posture was the key to maintaining top physical, emotional and spiritual health. He returned to Melbourne in 1894 to teach stage skills as well as his posture theories and moved to Sydney in 1899. As his beliefs were gaining support in Australia, Alexander moved to London (1904) to reach a wider audience. In 1910 he produced his first major publication "Man's Supreme inheritance" which outlined what is now known as the Alexander technique. Alexander's reputation grew and soon he had many pupils, often famous ones including Aldous Huxley and George Bernard Shaw, in Europe and in the United States of America. When World War II broke out Frederick Alexander moved his school to Massachusetts and continued to teach and write books on the subject even as its popularity began to diminish slightly. Alexander's achievements were praised by the 1973 Nobel Prize (Physiology/Medicine) winner, Professor Tinbergen as "one of the true epics of medical research and practice".

Events

c. 1885
Career position - Clerk at the Mount Bischoff mine in Waratah, Tasmania
c. 1890
Career position - Brother Albert Redden began assisting in the technique
c. 1890
Education - Moved to Melbourne to study acting
c. 1892
Life event - Moved to New Zealand and mainly stayed in Auckland
1894
Life event - Returned to Melbourne to teach stage skills and breathing and voice techniques
1899 - 1904
Career position - Worked in Sydney
c. 1904
Moved to London to continue his teaching and research into techniques to correct breathing and posture for maintaining health
1910
Career position - Man's Supreme Inheritance which introduced what is now called the Alexander Technique was published in London
1914 -
Career position - Began teaching the 'Alexander Technique' in the USA
1920
Life event - Married Edith Mary Parsons Young

Archival resources

Tufts University, USA (Archives for Special Collections

  • Frederick Matthias Alexander - Records, 1906 - 1989; Tufts University, USA (Archives for Special Collections. Details

Published resources

Book Sections

  • Roe, Michael, 'Alexander, Frederick Matthias (1869-1955)', in Bede Nairn and Geoffrey Serle (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 7, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1979, pp. 32-33. Also available at http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A070036b.htm. Details
  • Williamson, Malcolm, 'Frederick Matthias Alexander, 1869-1955', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004. Details

Online Resources

McCarthy, G.J & Annette Alafaci