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.
Alexander was born on 20 January 1869, in Australia on the northern bank of the Inglis River, near the present-day town of Wynyard, Tasmania. He was the eldest of ten children born to John Alexander, a blacksmith, and Betsy Brown. His parents were the offspring of convicts transported to what was then called Van Diemen's Land for offences such as theft and destroying agricultural machinery as part of the 1830 Swing Riots. Throughout his life Alexander was evasive about his ancestry, claiming Scottish descent and upgrading the status of his forebears. Alexander was born prematurely, and his survival was due to his mother's determination and care. As a result, he was her favourite child, and they remained close throughout his life. His relationship with his religious, hard-working father was less strong, and Alexander, with other family members, later became estranged from him. However, he later credited his father with teaching him to be alert and observant.
The family moved from Alexandria to Wingard in 1870, and Alexander, though not strong physically, enjoyed rural activities such as fishing and shooting, and learned a love of horses, riding and horse racing. He grew up in an evangelical Protestant household; the Sabbath was strictly observed, and his father, apparently a heavy drinker, seems to have taken a pledge of temperance in 1879. Alexander described himself as an agnostic, but was profoundly influenced by his Christian upbringing: his speech as an adult was peppered with biblical quotes, and he had been imbued a strong sense of right and wrong, self-discipline and personal responsibility. Education was not a priority for many local parents, but Betsy Alexander was determined that her children should be educated. Alexander first attended a Sunday school, and later the government school. Alexander was precocious, sensitive and attention-seeking, and as such made a difficult pupil. However, his teacher, a Scotsman named Robert Robertson, proved sympathetic, and acted as something of a father figure; he excused Alexander from daily school attendance and instead gave him lessons in the evening. As well as a basic education, Robertson gave Alexander a lifelong love of Shakespeare, theatre and poetry. Alexander was physically not suited to manual labour: he would later state that an otherwise idyllic boyhood had been marred by the severe internal pains that he experienced, generally after physical exertion. At 15, Alexander became a pupil-teacher assistant to Robertson, with the goal of a career as a schoolmaster...
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