Ida P. Rolf, a native New Yorker,
graduated from Barnard College in 1916; and 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.
In 1927, she took a leave of absence from her work to study
mathematics and atomic physics at the Swiss Technical University in
Zurich. During this time, she also studied homeopathic medicine in
Returning from Europe, she spent the decade of the 1930’s seeking
answers to personal and family health problems. Medical treatment
available at that time seemed inadequate to her; this led to her
exploration of osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, yoga, the
Alexander technique and Korzybski’s work on states of consciousness.
By the 1940’s, she was working in a Manhattan apartment where her
schedule was filled with people seeking help. She was committed to
the scientific point of view, and yet many breakthroughs came
intuitively through the work she did with chronically disabled
persons unable to find help elsewhere. This was the work eventually
to be known as Structural Integration. For the next thirty years,
Ida Rolf devoted herself to developing her technique and training
program. 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. Then, in the mid-60’s, Dr. Rolf was invited to
Esalen Institute in California at the suggestion of Fritz Perls,
founder of Gestalt Therapy. There she began training practitioners
and instructors of Structural Integration.