Wilfred Barlow (1915–91), British doctor and teacher of the Alexander Technique.
Wilfred Barlow was the first teacher to conduct research into the Technique, and author of the bestselling The Alexander Principle (1973).
Wilfred Barlow trained with Alexander 1938-45. In 1940 he married Marjory Mechin, Alexander’s niece. Barlow qualiﬁed as a doctor in 1941 and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps 1942-46. As a principal witness he helped Alexander win the 1948 South African defamation case Alexander vs. Jokl et al, and wrote an article on the libel action for The Lancet. Siding with Alexander, however, harmed his medical career; his job at the Middlesex Hospital was not renewed in 1948 and he was not appointed again until c. 1952, at a department of Charing Cross Hospital (the department was later moved to the Wembley Hospital). Here he worked three mornings a week, specialising in rheumatology, until his retirement in 1980. Besides his medical work, Barlow taught the Technique and assisted his wife in running a teachers’ training course in the Technique in Albert Court, Kensington, 1950-82.
After Barlow’s failed attempt to start a society of teachers in 1949, relations between him and Alexander became strained. The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique was founded after Alexander’s death, in 1958, by Barlow, his wife Marjory, and Joyce Wodeman. He was editor of its journal, The Alexander Journal, for its ﬁrst eight issues, 1962–68.
Barlow was the only teacher who developed the idea of making a formal diagnosis of a pupil’s use. Pupils would undress and stand – in front, side and rear poses – against a grid so that any asymmetries, deviations from the upright, etc., would be easy to identify and record. A sample sheet of of how to measure postural faults is reproduced in his The Alexander Principle.
Barlow was the editor of Knowing How to Stop (1946), a booklet with articles on the Technique. Barlow wrote a number of letters and articles in support of the Technique which were published in medical journals. Several of the articles examine the link between posture and emotion. Much of his published material was later incorporated into or reproduced in his The Alexander Principle (1973) which was a hugely popular introduction to the Alexander Technique. He edited a collection of articles, More Talk of Alexander (1978). A posthumeous collection of his articles, Postural Homeostasis, was published in 2014.
‘Conscious Self-Control’, The New Statesman and Nation 23 May 1942
‘Just Suggestion?’, British Medical Journal, 11 March 1944
‘Psychology of the ‘Presser’’, British Medical Journal, 18 November 1944
‘Stress Fractures’, The Lancet, 10 November 1945
‘Libel Action by Mr Matthias Alexander’, British Medical Journal, 4 February 1950
‘Pain in the Chest’, British Medical Journal, 8 April 1950
‘Osteopathy’, The Lancet, 11 April 1953
‘Isobel Cripps Centre’, The Lancet, 15 January 1955
‘Isobel Cripps Centre’, The Lancet, 29 January 1955
‘Mr F M Alexander – The Use of the Self’, The Times, 21 October 1955.
‘Pros and Cons of Manipulation’, The Lancet, 28 March 1964
‘Cervical Spondylosis’, British Medical Journal, 5 July 1969
‘Alexander Technique’, New Scientist, 28 November 1974
‘Alexander Technique’, New Scientist, 12 December 1974
‘Alexander Technique’, New Scientist, 16 January 1975
‘Knowing How to Stop’, The Medical Press and Circular, 18 July 1945
‘An Investigation into Kinaesthesia’, The Medical Press and Circular, 23 January 1946
‘Some Objections Answered’, in Knowing How to Stop (1946)
‘Anxiety and Muscle Tension’, The British Journal of Physical Medicine, May-June 1947
‘The Mind–Body Relationship’, The British Journal of Physical Medicine, May-June 1948
‘The Alexander Libel Action’, The Lancet, 1 July1950
‘The Future of Rationalism’, The Literary Guide and Rationalist Review, July1950
‘Posture’, The Lancet, 30 September 1950
‘Postural Homeostasis’, Annals of Physical Medicine, July 1952
‘Posture and the Resting State’, Annals of Physical Medicine, October 1954
‘Anxiety and Muscle Tension’, in Modern Trends in Psychosomatic Medicine vol 1, 1955
‘Psychosomatic Problems in Postural Re-Education’, The Lancet, 24 September 1955
‘Postural Deformity’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1956
‘Anxiety and Muscle-Tension Pain’, The British Journal of Clinical Practice, May 1959
‘Posture and Rest’, Health Education Journal, December 1961
‘Rest and Pain’, Proceedings of the Fourth Internaltional Congress of Physical Medicine, 6–11 September 1964
‘Medical Aspects of the Alexander Technique’, lecture first given in 1965. Revised edition in More Talk of Alexander (1978)
‘Do You Know How to Breathe?’, The Times Educational Supplement, 11 July 1969
‘The Alexander Principle’, Vogue (UK), 1 April 1973
‘The Meaning of Misuse’, first published as a booklet as ‘Some Varieties of Mis-use’ (1963). Revised edition in More Talk of Alexander (1978)
‘The Total Pattern of Behaviour’, in More Talk of Alexander, 1978
‘Alexander’s Ideas and Visual Art’, in More Talk of Alexander, 1978
‘Research at The Royal College of Music’, in More Talk of Alexander, 1978
‘What Sort of Alexander Teacher?’, in More Talk of Alexander, 1978
‘The Alexander Technique and Postural Pain’, The British Dental Journal, 6 July 1982
Knowing How to Stop (1946), editor.
The Alexander Principle (1973).
More Talk of Alexander (1978), editor.
Postural Homeostasis (2014).
Wilfred Barlow is featured in two videos from the 1st International Congress in 1986, a lecture and an interview. He also featured in the 1984 Channel Four documentary, which was later republished as Posture and Pain. A video of his teaching made by Linda and Paul McCartney in the 1980s and published in 2011.
‘Dr Wilfred Barlow 1915-1991’ by John Gray in NASTAT News, Winter 1992 no. 14, p. 4.
See also Diagnosis.
Wilfred Barlow *4 June 1915 – 21 October 1991.