Frederick Matthias Alexander

Frederick Matthias Alexander (18691955) originated the Alexander technique, which seeks to maximise human health and potential through muscular re-education. A blacksmith's son, Alexander was born on Table Cape and moved to Melbourne in 1889 to forge a stage career. He experienced vocal problems and the technique evolved out of his efforts to cure himself. By 1900 he was teaching his methods in Sydney, where he became known as 'The Breathing Man'.

In 1904 Alexander left Australia, spending the rest of his life developing, teaching and promoting the technique in England and America. George Bernard Shaw and John Dewey were among his supporters; there were also sceptics and detractors. Alexander wrote four major books, including Man's supreme inheritance (1910) and The use of the self (1932), and trained a generation of 'Alexander' teachers in London. The technique is established in Australia and in over twenty other countries.

Further reading: W Barlow, The Alexander principle, London, 1973; J Evans, Frederick Matthias Alexander, Chichester, 2001; M Roe, 'FM Alexander: A Prophet from Australia', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society 60, 1974.

Michelle Laffer