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F. Matthias Alexander

F. Matthias Alexander
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, particularly Shakespeare, which would lay the foundations for his future career.[1] At age sixteen, financial pressures forced Alexander to forsake his rural life, moving him to the mining 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.[1] After three years he moved to Melbourne, 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.[1] 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.[1] F. M. Alexander Frederick Matthias Alexander (20 January 1869 – 10 October 1955) was an Australian actor who developed the educational process that is today called the Alexander Technique – a form of education that is applied to recognize and overcome reactive, habitual limitations in movement and thinking.

Development of his technique
In the late 1890s, Alexander began to progressively lose his voice during his performances as a Shakespearean orator. Over time, it would become increasingly hoarse. As his career depending 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

Early life
Alexander was born on a large, isolated farm in Wynyard, Tasmania, 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


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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 symptoms were greatly reduced, to the extent that it was no longer a concern. [2] 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.

F. Matthias Alexander
• 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, Oscar Asche and Matheson Lang.[6] While living and working in South Africa, Professor Raymond Dart, along with his two children, had lessons in the Alexander Technique.[7] The English novelist Aldous Huxley was strongly influenced by F. M. Alexander and included him as a character in the pacifist theme novel Eyeless in Gaza published in 1936.[8] Gertrude Stein’s brother Leo called the Technique: "the method for keeping your eye on the ball applied to life".[9] The conservative philosopher and artist Anthony M. Ludovici was a pupil of Alexander’s.[10] George Bernard Shaw was also a student of the Alexander Technique. Sir Charles Sherrington, Nobel Prize winner in physiology a strong supporter and Edward Maisel,[1] Tai chi chuan Past Grandmaster, 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. [11] Moshé Feldenkrais had lessons with Alexander. Politician Sir Stafford Cripps, at the time he was British Chancellor of the Exchequer, consulted Alexander. He and his wife Dame Isobel Cripps were both his supporters. In 1945, Anthony Brooke, the Rajah Muda of Sarawak, had lessons with Alexander. Alexander celebrated his 70th birthday in the company of Lord Lytton.[12]

Famous students
Many famous actors, writers, politicians and philosophers were his students. Items on sale at the auction of the Alexander Estate[4] include signed photographs from artists, actors and actresses: • cartoonist and illustrator Ronald Searle, 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, an autographed photo "To F. M. Alexander for his ... ? 1907" • actress Viola Tree (1885-1938, daughter of Herbert Beerbohm Tree),[5] an autographed full-length photo "To Matthias Alexander with many thanks from Viola Tree 1909" • actress Lily Brayton, an autographed photo "...yours fully Lily Brayton...", about 1905; and another photo "With many good wishes from Lily Brayton. Desdemona", about 1909.

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


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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 (81,000 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’ 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.[13] 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.

F. Matthias Alexander
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 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.

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.[14]

In 1935, Irene Tasker, one of Alexander’s first students, arrived in Johannesburg, deciding to teach the technique in South Africa. Her address to the annual conference of the Transvaal 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 to children. In 1942 her work attracted the attention of Dr Ernst Jokl, Director of Physical Education 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

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 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, 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 and Sir Henry Dale, 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


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autumn of 1947, but there was delay due to the defence counsel Oswald Pirow having another matter to deal with, and the case was re-scheduled to the following March.

F. Matthias Alexander
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 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 British Medical Journal and the American Medical Association’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 reprenting dangerous quackery. Pirow was expert at persistent cross-questioning, throwing leading questions at all Alexander’s witnesses. Pirow asked: "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-

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 all must 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. Mr H.J. Hanson, K.C.[15] 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, Aldous Huxley, Sir Stafford Cripps 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


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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. 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.[16] 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. [17]

F. Matthias Alexander

Views on race
In his book "Man’s Supreme Inheritance", p. 72, F. M. Alexander writes that "The controlling and guiding forces in savage fourfooted animals and in the savage black races are practically the same: and this serves to show that from the evolutionary standpoint the mental progress of these races has not kept pace with their physical evolution from the plane of the savage animal to that of the savage human." Two paragraphs down, he concludes: "The inadequate relative progress of the mental evolution of the black races as compared with that of their physical evolution, when considered in their approximation to the savage animals, cannot be considered other than a most disappointing result". Comparing "primitive" to "civilised" nations in the period that led to the First World War, Alexander states that in primitive nations "even the spheres of courage were limited, and when confronted with the unusual these peoples quaked like cowards, and fled panic-stricken from the unaccustomed, as in the case of the negroes in the Southern States of America when the men of the KuKlux Klan pursued them on horseback dressed in white". According to Ron Dennis’s review of Jeon Staring’s "Frederick Matthias Alexander 1869-1955", published in AmSATNews, no. 70, Spring 2006, this quote on American "negroes" "was officially disavowed by AmSAT in 1994". AmSAT is the American Society for the Alexander Technique. (http://www.mouritz.co.uk/ 8.29.23.Staring.FMABio.html) On page 182: "At present man is held in bondage by many subconscious instincts which enslave the animal kingdom, the savage, and the semi-savage". On page 196, Alexander states that " the animal and the lower races of mankind do not perform physical acts by any process of reason. They are the servants of that strange directing law which governs the flower in its curiously ingenious devices to ensure cross-fertilisation, no less than the higher mammalia in the rules of their gregarious societies, the law for which we have found no better term than Instinct". In his chapter on "Race Culture", Alexander develops his ideas on education, where he points to dancing and drawing as "two forms of damnation" and goes on to condemn the teaching of dancing in schools: "Music

Final years
Alexander continued to work until his sudden death in 1955. His funeral was at South London Crematorium, Streatham Vale.[18] The practice at 16 Ashley Place was taken over by one of his assistants, Patrick Macdonald.


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and dancing are, as every one knows, excitements which make a stronger emotional appeal to the primitive man than to the more highly evolved races. No drunken man in our civilisation ever reaches the stage of anaesthesia and complete loss of self-control attained by the savage under the influence of these stimuli. But in the schools where I have witnessed children’s performances, I have seen the first beginnings of that madness which is the savage’s ecstasy" (p. 124).

F. Matthias Alexander
• Gurney MacInnes, 1931. • Dr. Dorothy Stella Radcliffe Morrison (née Drew),[22] (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 sectretary. • 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, (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. • Catherine "Kitty" Wielopolska (Countess Wielopolska, née Merrick), (1900-1988), 1931. • Peggy Williams, (1916-2003), 1947. • Erika Whittaker (née Schumann), (1911-2004), 1931.[23]

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.[19] 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 USA to teach. • Max Alexander, AR’s son. • 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[20] in 1958. • Marjorie "Marj" Barstow, (1899-1995), 1931. Taught the technique in the USA. • Goddard Binkley, (1920-1987), 1953. Taught the technique in the USA. • Dilys Carrington (née Jones), (1915- ), 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.[21] Taught the technique in the USA. • Patrick J. "Pat" Macdonald, (1908-1992), 1931. Principal, The Alexander Foundation.

The four books of F. Matthias Alexander exist in many editions, being reprinted and revised, published in the UK and USA, 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 (USA,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 (USA, 1941, 1986), Mouritz (UK, 2000) ISBN 091311118X, ISBN 978-0913111185, ISBN 0-9525574-4-4


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F. Matthias Alexander

• 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 Lists • Association of Theatre Movement Educators nearly 50 works on the Alexander Technique • Mouritz Alexander Technique Literature • ATI Alexander Technique International Bookstore Selection of publications • STAT (Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique), The Alexander Journal, Mouritz (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 • Alexander Technique for Musicians Pedro de Alcantara Working to a Principle • Alternative Medicine and Rehabilitation The Alexander Technique

[1] ^ Gelb, Michael J (1995). Body Learning (2nd edition ed.). New York: Owl Books. pp. 9–11. ISBN 0-8050-4206-7. [2] Curing Voice Problems with The Alexander Technique - By David Moore School for F.M. Alexander Studies [3] School For F.M. Alexander Studies Book List [4] Alexander Estate Auction Preview [5] Shakespeare and the Players: Viola Tree [6] The Times Obituary, 11 October 1955 [7] Macdonald, Glynn The Complete Ilustrated Guide to the Alexander Technique, p. 88, Barnes & Noble, 1998 ISBN 0-7607-1178-X [8] Aldous Huxley Eyeless in Gaza, Harper and Brothers, 1936 ISBN-10: BOOOPONQNS F. M. Alexander is named in Chapter 2. Miller, the character whose description immediately resembles Alexander, appears in Chapter 49. [9] Michael J. Gelb, Body Learning - An Introduction to the Alexander Technique, p. 2, Macmillan, 1996 ISBN 0805042067 [10] Religion for Infidels. London: Holborn, 1961. Excerpts reprinted as "How I came to have lessons with F. M. Alexander" in The Philosopher’s Stone: Diaries of Lessons with F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer. London: Mouritz, 1998, pp. 102–108. [11] Edward Maisel The Resurrection of the Body, pp. viii-lii, Dell Publishing Co. Inc., 1974 ISBN 10: 0440573742 [12] Macdonald, Glynn The Complete Illustrated Guide to the Alexander Technique, p. 103, Barnes & Noble, 1998 ISBN 0-7607-1178-X [13] Evans, Jackie: Frederick Matthias Alexander - A Family History UK, Phillimore & Co, 2001 ISBN 1860771785 From a review by Jean M. O. Fischer, first published in The Alexander Journal no. 18, 2002 [14] Michael Bloch "Life of F. M. Alexander", chapter 7 [15] Harold Hanson, KC. For the first week of the case, The Star gives his name as "Hansen", while the Rand Daily Mail always has "Hanson" (but "Hansen" once on 21 February). From 26 February both newspapers are agreed on "Hanson", as

External links
• F. M. Alexander Photo Gallery • Alexander Technique Education


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confirmed in Michael Bloch’s biography of FM [16] Johannesburg newspapers The Star and Rand Daily Mail 16 February 1948 - 4 March 1948 [17] Chapter 7 of Michael Bloch’s "Life of F. M. Alexander" is an account of the Case [18] The Times Oct 12 1955 [19] Lulie Westfeldt, F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and his Work page 48.

F. Matthias Alexander
[20] Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique [21] Freedom to Change - The Development and Science of the Alexander Technique, by Frank Pierce Jones [22] Dorothy Drew was the sister of architect Jane Drew. [23] Erika Schumann was the German niece of Ethel Webb.

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