American chemist, founder of Structural Integration
Dr. Ida Rolf spent her life exploring the healing possibilities held within the human mind and body.
Dr Ida Pauline Rolf (1896 - 1979) was a native New Yorker who graduated from Barnard College in 1916. In 1920 she earned a Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. For the next twelve years Ida Rolf worked at the Rockefeller Institute, first in the Department of Chemotherapy and later in the Department of Organic Chemistry. Eventually, she rose to the rank of Associate, no small achievement for a young woman in those days.
During the 1950’s, her reputation spread to England where she spent summers as a guest of John Bennett, a prominent mystic and student of Gurdjieff. She taught osteopaths in England, and also taught in Oslo, Norway.
Then, in the early 60’s, Dr Rolf was invited to Esalen Institute in California at the suggestion of Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy. There she found a group of people who, although they knew nearly nothing about anatomy and manipulation, understood both practically and intuitively what the professionals she had previously taught could not seem to get: a system-orientation to their clients, not a symptom-orientation.
The hippies at Esalen, not her natural kin (she was a Victorian woman and a scientist to boot), had been learning Gestalt therapy and studying Eastern thought. They were ready for her early exposition of holism: "Where you think it is, it ain't," and "If your symptoms get better, that's your tough luck". From this crowd, she began training practitioners and instructors of Structural Integration, and this led to the formation of the Rolf Institute and of "rolfing".
The more Structural Integration classes Ida Rolf taught, the more students sought admission to training. Newspaper and magazine articles began featuring the person and work of Ida Rolf, and soon the necessity for a formal organization became apparent. As early as 1967, the first Guild for Structural Integration was loosely formed and eventually headquartered in a private home in Boulder, Colorado.
Until her death in 1979, Ida Rolf actively advanced training classes, giving direction to her organization, planning research projects, writing, publishing and public speaking. In 1977, she wrote Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures (Harper and Row, Publishers). This book is the major written statement of Ida P. Rolf’s scholastic and experiential investigation into the direct intervention with the evolution of the human species. Another book compiled by Dr. Rolf’s close associate and companion, Rosemary Feitis, is Ida Rolf Talks About Rolfing and Physical Reality, which offers glimpses into a diverse and ever-inquiring mind. Ida Rolf Remembered gives many stories from early Rolf practitioners about difficult but rewarding encounters with Ida Rolf.