In 1920 Ida Pauline Rolf, a native New Yorker, earned her Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. From there she went on to work at the Rockefeller Institute, for the next decade, in the Departments of Chemotherapy and Organic Chemistry respectively. Seeking answers to personal and family health problems her work and research lead her to study mathematics and atomic physics at the Swiss Technical University in Zurich and homeopathic medicine in Geneva. Returnning home in the early 1930's she continued her explorations of osteopathy, chiropractic medicine, yoga, the Alexander Technique and Korzybski's work on states of consciousness. A decade later she was essentially running a bodywork practice filled with people seeking help from all sorts of conditions. Her scientific rigour supported her eventual intuitive breakthroughs achieved while working with chronically disabled persons who were unable to find help anywhere else. This was the work that over the next thirty years would eventually come to be know as Structural Integration of Rolfing.
Dr. Rolf posed this fundamental question: What conditions must be fulfilled in order for the human body-structure to be organized and integrated in gravity so that the whole person can function in the most optimal and economical way?Her life's work was devoted to this investigation which led to the system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that we now call 'Rolfing'. In order to pass along her work to others and to make the education process accessible, she developed an expedient series of ten sessions. Dr. Rolf continues to be recognized as a pioneer and leader in soft tissue manipulation and movement education.
Since her death in 1979 at the age of 83, the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration has continued to share her work by certifying Rolfers and Rolf Movement Practitioners, supporting research and building upon her inspiration. Today, there are several thousand Rolfers and Rolf Movement Practitioners worldwide. There are recognized Associations in Europe, South America, Asia and Australia that support the work of the International Rolf Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Fraternal organizations also continue to share and teach her work. These are: The Guild for Structural Integration the sister branch to the Rolf Institute, Hellerwork established later by Joseph Heller, and Kinesis Myofascial Integration established relatively recently by Tom Myers.