German-born Joseph Pilates was living in England and working as a circus performer and boxer when he was placed in forced internment in England at the outbreak of World War I. While in the internment camp, he began to develop the floor exercises that evolved into what we now know as the Pilates mat work.
As time went by, Pilates began to work with rehabilitating detainees who were suffering from diseases and injuries. Among other things, he devised resistance exercise equipment for his patients like the Reformer, the Cadillac and the Chair.
Joseph Pilates developed his work from a strong personal experience in fitness. Unhealthy as a child, he studied wide range of self-improvement systems. He was fascinated by Eastern practices and inspired by the ancient Greek ideal of perfecting the human being in the development of body, mind, and spirit.
On his way to creating the Pilates Method, Pilates studied anatomy and developed himself as a bodybuilder, wrestler, gymnast, boxer, skier, and diver.
Joseph Pilates died in 1967. He had maintained a fit physique throughout his life, and photos show that he was still in a remarkable physical condition in his later years. He is said to have been an intimidating, but deeply committed, instructor.