COMPANION

Peter Macdonald

Peter Macdonald (1870–1960), surgeon and eye specialist, a pupil of F. M. Alexander, who wrote several articles on the Alexander Technique for the medical profession.

Life

Peter Macdonald was born in Scotland and was a Scottish surgeon and eye specialist. He settled in York where in 1904 he became medical officer to Rowntree & Co – one of the first companies to establish such a post for their workers. He later married Joseph Rowntree’s daughter, Agnes Julia. He was an experienced eye, ear, nose and throat surgeon and wrote many medical papers on these subjects. He took a passionate interest in politics, both national and medical. He was critical of the organization of insurance practitioners in the period of the Insurance Act, and was equally critical of the National Health Service which he dealt with in his rôle as Chairman of the British Medical Association (1942–45). He sat on many local and national committees and boards and was also vice-president of the British Medical Association (BMA).[1] Macdonald was a keen golfer, boxer, bridge player and also president of the York Florist Society, winning several prizes at flower shows.[2] He retired in 1951.[3]

Macdonald became a pupil of Alexander around 1921–22,[4], around the time he took his son, Patrick Macdonald, to have lessons with Alexander. Patrick Macdonald later became a prominent teacher of the Technique.

Writings

Macdonald several times attempted to gain a wider interest for Alexander’s technique among the medical profession. In 1923, at a BMA discussion on 'the nervous child,' he spoke at length on Alexander’s contribution to the question of posture and its influence on health.[5] In opening a discussion about preventive medicine in 1924 he included a short, but concise description of the contribution to health which the Technique offers.[6] In response to an address which discussed the influence of the human erect posture on health, Macdonald wrote a letter drawing attention to Alexander’s technique[7] which was followed up with a letter on the Technique’s beneficial influence on asthma.[8] An address, ‘Instinct and Functioning in Health and Disease,’ given to the Yorkshire branch of the BMA, was entirely devoted to Alexander’s discoveries.[9] A long letter to the British Medical Journal, written in view of Coghill’s research confirming Alexander’s discovery, was written in 1939.[10]

His letters and articles on the Technique are:

  • ‘Discussion on the Nervous Child’ in British Medical Journal, 24 November 1923.[11]
  • ‘New Thought Influencing the Outlook upon Health and the Prevention of Disease’ in British Medical Journal, 9 August 1924.[12]
  • Correspondence ‘Criticism of a Book Review’ in Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 4 December 1924.[13]
  • ‘Instinct and Functioning in Health and Disease’ in British Medical Journal, 25 December 1926.[14]
  • ‘Function and Posture’ in British Medical Journal, 20 October 1928.[15]
  • ‘The Curability of Asthma’ in British Medical Journal, 4 May 1929.[16]
  • ‘A Professor of Foresight’ in The Listener, 14 December 1932.[17]
  • ‘Control of Functioning’ in British Medical Journal, 17 June, 1939.[18]

These articles were included in a collection of articles and papers on the Alexander Technique, A Means To An End.[19]

See also Patrick Macdonald.

References

[1] Obituary of Peter Macdonald in British Medical Journal, 10 September 1960, pp. 809–10.
[2] Mary Duncan, personal communication, January 1995.
[3] Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), endnote 143, pp. 309–10.
[4] On examination for the South African Libel Case in 1947, Peter Macdonald states that he has known the work of Alexander for “about twenty-five” years. Evidence taken in Commission in London, 2 July 1947, Witness no. 2, Question nos. 10 and 551.
[5] Peter Macdonald reported in ‘Proceedings of Sections at the Annual Meeting, 1923, Section of Neurology and Psychological Medicine’, in British Medical Journal, 24 November 1923, p. 971.
[6] Peter Macdonald, ‘Discussion on the Role of the General Practitioner in Preventive Medicine – Opening Paper’, in British Medical Journal, 9 August 1924, pp. 227–230.
[7] Peter Macdonald, ‘Instinct and Functioning in Health and Disease’, in British Medical Journal, 25 December 1926, pp. 1221–23.
[8] Peter Macdonald, ‘The Curability of Asthma,’ letter in British Medical Journal, 4 May 1929, p. 832.
[9] Peter Macdonald, ‘Function and Posture’, British Medical Journal, 20 October 1928, p. 726.
[10] Peter Macdoanld, ‘Control of Functioning’, British Medical Journal, 17 June, 1939, p. 1259.
[11] ‘Discussion on the Nervous Child’ by Peter Macdonald in A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015), pp. 218–19.
[12] ‘New Thought Influencing the Outlook upon Health and the Prevention of Disease’ by Peter Macdonald in A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015), pp. 220–21.
[13] Correspondence ‘Criticism of a Book Review’ by Peter Macdonald in A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015), pp. 221–24.
[14] ‘Instinct and Functioning in Health and Disease’ by Peter Macdonald in A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015), pp. 224–32.
[15] ‘Function and Posture’ by Peter Macdonald in A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015), pp. 232–33.
[16] ‘The Curability of Asthma’ by Peter Macdonald in A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015), p. 234.
[17] ‘A Professor of Foresight’ by Peter Macdonald in A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015), pp. 235–36.
[18] ‘Control of Functioning’ by Peter Macdonald in A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015), pp. 236–37.
[19] A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015).