Alexander Leeper (1848–1934), principal of Trinity College, Melbourne University, and pupil of F. M. Alexander.
Alexander Leeper was born in Belfast and completed his education at Trinity College, Dublin, and St. John’s College, Oxford. He took up an appointment in 1876 as principal of Trinity College at Melbourne University, a post he would keep for the next 42 years. (The title ‘principal’ was later changed to ‘warden’.) He was member of a number of Melbourne educational and cultural organisations, including the Public Library, National Gallery, the Councils of Melbourne Grammar and Melbourne Church of England Girls’ Grammar School (a leading Melbourne boys and girls schools), the Classical Association and the Shakespeare Society. Leeper was also actively involved with church affairs.  It was a member of the Victorian Teachers and Schools Registration Board that he wrote the ‘Leeper report’ recommending the Alexander Technique.
Connection with F. M. Alexander
Leeper started having lessons with F. M. Alexander before Alexander left for England in 1904 (perhaps already in the 1890s), and also had lessons with A. R. Alexander. In 1908 Dr Leeper visited England to attend an Anglican Conference. The Teachers and Schools Registration Board commissioned him to investigate and report to the Board on the latest developments in physical culture methods in the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe. During his visit to England he had more lessons with Alexander in London in 1908, and became a strong supporter of the value of Alexander’s work.
‘The Report on Physical Culture in the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe’ by Dr Leeper was presented to the Victorian Teachers and Schools Registration Board in March 1909. The report is effusive in its praise of Alexander’s system:
The results are most striking. It is no exaggeration to say that most of the leaders of the dramatic profession in London (and what better judges could possibly be found?) are enthusiastic believers in the efficacy of his system, and many of them have placed themselves under him for tuition. . . . Not only did I take a course of lessons, myself, but I went to the trouble of making personal acquaintance with some of the members of the dramatic profession who had been in Mr Alexander’s hands.
That what is known as the Alexander method of the re-education of the respiratory organs is deserving of the Board’s special attention.
The recommendation was not acted upon. In March 1910 led a Conference on Physical Culture for the Defence Department, and in May 1910 he became chairman of a Committee on Physical Culture. However no syllabus was defined until 1915 and did not include any reference to Alexander’s methods. Apparently the Australian politician Billy Hughes had a part in this; he had lessons with F. M. Alexander later and admitted to Alexander that he did not follow Leeper’s recommendation.
Leeper and Alexander stayed in touch as there are at least two letters from Alexander to Leeper, 1919 and 1924.
Doubts and Certainties: A Life of Alexander Leeper by John Poynter covers Leeper’s lessons with F. M. and A. R. Alexander and the history of the Leeper report.
- ‘Dr Alexander Leeper, F. M. Alexander, and Billy Hughes’ by Rosslyn McLeod describes the story of the Leeper report.
- Up From Down Under by Rosslyn McLeod contains a chapter on Leeper and Alexander.
- ‘Friends of Alexander – Alexander Leeper 1848–1934 – Part one’ by Margaret Long is a brief story of the Leeper report.
- ‘Jobs for the boys’ by Rosemary Chance quotes from Walter Carrington’s 1969 F. M. Alexander Memorial Lecture on the Billy Hughes episode.
- ‘Friends of Alexander – Alexander Leeper 1848–1934 – Part two’ by Margaret Long is a brief biography of Leeper.
The Leeper report (or extracts from it) has been published several times:
- ‘Report on physical culture’ by Alexander Leeper in Direction.
- ‘The report on physical culture in the United Kingdom and the continent of Europe’ by Dr Alexander Leeper in A Means To An End.
- And in chapter 12, ‘Dr Alexander Leeper’, in Up From Down Under by Rosslyn McLeod.
Alexander Leeper *3 June 1848 – †6 August 1934.
See also Billy Hughes.