Peter Henrik Ling, a Swedish poet, the founder of curative gymnastics, born in Ljunga, Smaland, Nov. 15, 1776, died in Stockholm, May 3, 1839. He was educated at the schools of Wexio, and in 1797 passed the theological examination. From this time he travelled over Europe, apparently with no definite object, often reduced to extreme want, yet maintaining a sturdy independence of character. His love of adventure at one time led him to take part in a sea fight against Nelson. He at last returned to Sweden, having acquired several modern languages besides a variety of other knowledge. While at Stockholm suffering from an attack of gout in the elbow, he conceived the idea of curing the complaint by exercise, and with this object learned the art of fencing. His success in this experiment led him to believe that many other diseases might also be relieved or cured by suitable combinations of movements, such as would induce the proper physiological action in the part exercised. Such was the origin of the so-called kinesipathy or movement cure, on the establishment of which his reputation is chiefly based.
This system is now recognized as a medical auxiliary, applicable especially to chronic diseases and cases of deformity, and is practised to some extent in Europe and America. Ling became a proficient in anatomy and physiology, and perfected several other branches of gymnastics. He at first supported himself by teaching the modern languages and fencing, and in 1805 he was appointed professor of fencing in the university at Lund. He also lectured on the old Norse poetry, history, and mythology, and wrote dramas and many poetical essays, some of which have great beauty. He still devoted himself assiduously to the study of the curative effects of certain bodily movements; and on being appointed master of fencing in the military academy at Carlberg, he was enabled to put his ideas into practical execution, after having long struggled against the indifference of others and his own poverty. In 1813 the royal central institution was established at Stockholm to be devoted to his special practice, and he was made the director. He was elected member of the Swedish academy, and was appointed professor and knight of the order of the north star.
His "Elementary Principles of Gymnastics " was published after his death (Upsal, 1840). Several other works have since been written in exposition of his theories, both in German and English.