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Frederick 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 of degree.

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.

Alexander died 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.

Photographs of F.M.Alexander © 2001.  The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique, London.

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