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Thomas Ambrose Bowen

18th April, 1916 - 28th October 1982

Many myths and legends have evolved regarding how Tom Bowen (pictured above) discovered his remarkable methods of working. Some involve learning the principles whilst in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, some introduce deep and secret teachings from aborigine elders. Whilst this would be terribly romantic if true, Tom Bowen appears to have evolved his talents completely on his own and developed the Bowen Technique from his own efforts.

Born in Wolverhampton in 1916 to a working class, his family emigrated to Austrailia soon afterwards and settled in Geelong, Brunsick, Victoria. Tom had little in the way of formal education and, left school at 14 and worked as a milk carter and then at the local cement works in Geelong as a carpenter. Outside his work, Tom showed boundless energy in his activities with youngsters, organising a local Salvation Army Club and coaching children in swimming. His observation of sports such as football and umpiring cricket fuelled his interest in massage and bodyworks.

Married in 1941 to his lifelong partner Jessie, Tom first started displaying his gift by treating fellow workers at the cement works who had been hurt. Word of mouth soon brought patients from elsewhere and Tom developed his technique over the years until he started in full time practice in the late 1950’s.


Tom was incredibly generous with his time, often treating patients for free if they were in financial trouble and he ran a free clinic once a month for disabled children and adults. Some of the conditions he treated included Para- and Quadra-plegia, Spina Bifida and Cerebral Palsy, some of the results being quite startling in their effectiveness. Tom also ran a free Saturday evening clinic for sportsmen who had injured themselves during the day’s play!

Although Tom had no formal training, his work with another therapist, Ernie Saunders, has been mentioned as being a strong influence on him and it is surely his exposure to such consistent therapeutic methods which gave Tom his 'seeing' ability. It was often said of Tom that he could take one look at an individual and 'see' what was wrong and where the problem stemmed from. In addition he only needed to do a few simple moves, allowing the body to rest for certain periods, before 'seeing' that the body had started to change.

Tom treated huge numbers of patients from his clinic, initially held in a friend’s house before being forced to move to larger premises. He never advertised or called his therapy by any sort of grand title, but did refer to himself as an osteopath before the title became regulated in the 1970’s. In 1974, the government of the state of Victoria commissioned a report into alternative therapies in the state and Tom voluntarily gave evidence to the panel. The report published by the Commissioner showed that Tom claimed he was doing an estimated 13,000 treatments a year. Most of these, he said, were not repeat treatments, with 88% of these being first or second treatments.


It may be that it was this pressure of work that explains why Tom never formally wrote down guidelines or notes on his technique. His approach to therapy was based mainly on his deep intuition and understanding of what an individual needed. As a result, many of his theories and methods of treatment may have appeared somewhat unusual although the results continue to speak volumes for their power, validity and effectiveness.

The task of recording his methods was left to ‘his boys’, a select few people who worked with Tom and learned through direct observation and guidance from the man himself. Tom allowed them to observe his work for just one morning a week, saying that he’d only show them 10% of what he knew and it was up to them to find out the rest! These ‘boys’ were all physical therapists in some regard, most of them having osteopathic or chiropractic training and backgrounds. It was this formal training, which gave them access to Tom’s clinic and helped them to compare methods.

One of these men was Oswald Rentsch who wrote in depth about the technique and, after Tom’s death in 1982, started teaching the Technique to others using a more formal, structured approach than Tom had practised. It is interesting to note that the people who learnt from Tom Bowen had different views of his work and it seems possible that he even varied his method according to who was working with him. For example Kevin Ryan, another disciple of Tom Bowen, also went on to develop Tom’s work but in a markedly different format.

Tom’s research and study in the human body did result in his realization that his technique worked by opening up the body’s own energy pathways and allowing it to begin the healing process itself. This has become the key premise behind Tom Bowen’s Technique of healing and all subsequent development has been undertaken with this basic principle in mind.

Origins of Bowen: Welcome
Origins of Bowen: Quote

Tom Bowen's philosophy towards life was depicted in the following quote 

by John o'London (also attributed to William Penn). 

He willingly gave out copies of this to his patients:


"I expect to pass through this world but once,
Any good thing therefore that I do,
Or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature,
Let me do it now.
Let me not defer or neglect it,
For I shall not pass this way again."

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