Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.


  • The Vermiform Appendix
  • Operating for Appendicitis
  • Expelling Power of the Vermiform Appendix
  • Care Exercised in Making Assertions
  • The Human Machinery
  • Which Best, God's Machine or Man's?
  • The Germ
  • The Astronomer and New Worlds
  • The Knife of Wisdom
  • The Law of Affinity
  • The Heart of Man and the Trunk of a Tree
  • The Heart is King of All
    AT the present time more than at any other period since the birth of Christ, the medical and surgical world have centralized their minds for the purpose of relieving locally inside, below the kidney of the male or female, excruciating pain, which appears in both sexes in the region above described.

    From some cause possibly justifiable, it has been decided to open the human body and explore the region just below the right kidney in search of the cause of this trouble.  Such explorations have been made upon the dead first.  Small seeds and other substances have been found in the, vermiform appendix, which is a hollow tube over an inch in length.  These discoveries, as found in the dead subject, have led to explorations in the same location in the living.  In some of the cases, though very few, seeds and other substances have been found in the vermi-form appendix, supposed to be the cause of local or general inflammation of the appendix.  Some have been successfully removed, and permanent relief followed the operation.  These explorations and successes in finding substances in the vermiform appendix, their removal, and successful recovery in some cases, have led to what may properly be termed a hasty system of diagnosis, and it has become very prevalent, and resorted to by the physicians of many schools, under the impression that the vermiform appendix is of no known use, and that the human being is just as well off without it.

    Therefore it is resolved, that, as nothing positive is known of the trouble in the location above described, it is guessed that it is a disease of the vermiform appendix.  Therefore they etherize and dissect down for the purpose of exploring, to ascertain if the guess is right or wrong.  In the diagnosis this is a well-defined case of appendicitis; the surgeon's knife is driven through the quivering flesh with great eagerness in search of the vermiform appendix.  The bowels are rolled over and around in search of the appendix.  Sometimes some substances are found in it; but often, to the chagrin of the exploring physician, it is found to be in a perfectly healthy and natural condition, and so seldom is it found impact with seeds or any substance whatever that as a general rule it is a useless and dangerous experiment.  The percent of deaths caused by the knife and etber, and the permanently crippled, will justify the assertion that it would be far better for the human race if they lived and died in ignorance of appendicitis.  A few general cases might die from that cause; but if the knife were the only known remedy, it were better that one should occasionally die than to continue this system, at least until the world recognizes a relief which is absolutely safe, without the loss of a drop of blood, that has for its foundation and philosophy a fact based upon the longitudinal contractile ability of the appendix itself, which is able to eject by its natural forces any substances that may by an unnatural move be forced into the appendix.  To a philosopher such questions as this must arise: Has the appendix at its entrance a sphincter muscle similar in action to that of the rectum?  Has it the power to contract and dilate? -- contract and shorten in its length and eject all substances when the nerves are in a normal condition?  And where is the nerve that failed to execute the expulsion of any substance that may enter the cavity of the appendix?  Has God been so forgetful as to leave the appendix in such condition as to receive foreign bodies without preparing it by contraction or otherwise to throw out such substances?  If He has, He surely forgot part of His work.  So reason has concluded for me, and on that line I have proceeded to operate without pain or misery to the patient, and given permanent relief in seventy-five percent of all cases who have come to me.  With the former diagnosis of doctors and surgeons that appendicitis was the malady, and the choice of relief was the knife or death, or possibly both, many such cases have come for Osteopathic treatment, and examination has revealed that in every case there has been previous injury to some set of spinal nerves caused by jars, strains, or falls.  Every case of appendicitis, gall or renal stones can be traced to some such cause.

    We should use much caution in our assertions that nature had made its work so complete in animal forms and furnished them with such wisely prepared principles that they could produce and administer remedies to suit, and not leave the body to find them.  Should we so conclude and find by experiments that man is so arranged, and wisely furnished by Deity as to ferret out disease, purify and keep the temple of life in ease and health, we must use great care when we assert such to be undeniably true up to the present.  The opposite opinion has bad full sway for twenty centuries at least, and man has by habit, long usage, and ignorance so adjusted his mind to submit to customs of the great past that be will try to reason and bring his mind to such altitude of thought of the greatness and wisdom of the Infinite, that he may become insane or fall back in a stupor, and exist only as a living mental blank in the great ocean of life, where beings dwell without minds to govern their actions.  It would be a great calamity to have all the untrained minds shocked so seriously as to cause them to lose the mite of reason they now have, and be sent back once more to dwell in Darwin's protoplasm.  I tell you there is danger, and we must be careful and show the people small stars, and but one at a time, till they can begin to reason and realize that God has done all that the wisest can attribute to Him.

    If we acknowledge the intelligence of a God, we have placed ourselves in a position that we are called upon by all that is great, good, and intelligent to investigate all the facts in the works to ascertain if they are worthy the belief in an Omnipotent.  Make no, assertion previous to investigation.  If it be the machinery of life, justice would say a careful and thorough investigation is unavoidable, because we have now on trial the mechanical works of the mind of the Infinite, and we are oath-bound to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth.  To become qualified jurors in this case we must remember the apprenticeship, the days of which have been that of a constant worker, through all eternity to date.  And if time and experience have any-thing toward perfection in knowledge and operative skill, God has had it all.

    Could we afford to say, I think for a moment that the God and mind of all skill did not know and do His work to the full measure of perfection?  First, do you not think His foundation is not only good, but very good? Beneath the whole superstructure, man, can you suggest a change in locality for the head, neck, spine, limbs?  Could you add or subtract a single bone, nerve, vein, or artery that you know would be any improvement on the original?  If not, can you add and get beneficial results?  Could you put machinery in there that would make better blood, or any other fluid necessary to life?  Can you improve on the general covering (or skin) or any other part of the body.  With all your wisdom can you improve on His hair-making machine?  Any improvement on the secretions? lymphatics? any organ, gland, or muscle?  Do you not see at once you have not the mental ability to conceive the laws of construction, much less the mental power to conceive and construct a complete machine and endow it with the principles of mind and motion; of the voluntary, involuntary, motor, sensory, nutrient, and sympathetic nerve system.  Have you ever found under the most crucial examination a single flaw as shown by the most powerful microscope?  Has chemistry ever detected a failure in the normal process in preparing the fluids of life?  Has it ever found imperfection in the fluid itself or any part or principle of the whole economy of life?  If those fluids are different in quality and kind, who is warranted to come forward and destroy the harmonious process of life by the addition of any noxious or innocent drug?

    With the beginning of civilization the minds of skilled mechanics have never ceased for a day to think how to formulate and beautify His gems.  The diamond has been cut in all known forms for the purpose of receiving light in such manner that by transposing and multiplying the rays the stone will exhibit brilliantly all seven of the known colors, with their modulations to give beauty, and attract attention from the philosopher to those who live to admire the beautiful only.  The astronomer's soul is made to leap with joy when he sees all the beauties of heaven which he has sought and found in unmeasured space.  He sees the revolving satellites, playing around their mother planets, with all their brilliancy and activity, each one carrying the lighted candle of the marriage feast.  And with the least move of this gem, like his telescope, his eye comes in contact with new worlds dead and alive; with the comets dancing to the heavenly music, gracefully bowing, and bidding adieu for a longer or shorter period, at which time they will return and partake of the festivities of another dance.

    The bones and teeth of animals have all kindly received His skill to give them beauty.  We should ever reverence and respect those whose minds and hands are active no more for their great success in exhibiting the works of nature.

    At this time I wish to call your attention to another class of thinkers who antedate Abraham.  They, too, have formulated from crude nature a greater gem than all diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and gems of all stones.  This gem, like all great philosophers of either sex, prefers seclusion to publicity, never coming on the stage of action save in answer to demand.  It combines beauty, innocence, and death.  When in one position it exhibits nothing to your mind but death and destruction.  But like a kind reasoner, it is lovable in form and beautiful to behold.  It has the power to control its passions, and never comes upon the field of death and destruction until the last moment of forbearance is consumed.  Then it comes forth and executes its deadly mission.  That it may be a gem of great purity and usefulness, the mineralogist and chemist have exhausted their store of knowledge, and passed over to the skilled mechanic this once crude metal, known as steel, to formulate the blades of a knife, with its useful jaws to clamp the blade, with spring to hold in position when shut, is the emblem of innocence.  To hold them open is the token of death or usefulness.  When its labor is done, and a person sees it in its folded innocence, he says, My friend.  No gem stands higher than this one legacy given to us by our forefathers, unless it be the brains of the Osteopath, whose mind is the knife to sever the cords of ignorance which bind the public to drugs.

    When we assert we are prepared to discuss the ability of nature through the arteries and nerve system to construct the various parts of the machinery used in constructing the animal body of any kind, we assert a truth.  We have said that we have made ourselves acquainted with all the parts or principles necessary to receive the living forces, with ample room to carry on the works under the fiat of Divine perfection, as united or separate laboratories in whose departments all chemicals are prepared and proportioned, as coming off from the balance-scales of the Infinite.  Previous to their association a higher law, commonly called affinity, begins to accomplish its unerring work of preparing the fluids and assigning their delivery to the charge of each distributing officer, whose wisdom comes from the university of Deity Itself with that charge, "Let not your right band know what your left band doetb," but obey and follow the figures and laws as laid out upon the trestle-board of the grand Architect of all forms and buildings wherein life dwells.  We should ever bear in mind that as the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, when properly placed, can be so associated as to represent all languages and tongues, thoughts and conclusions of all the people, of all the eternities of the past, and all to come, and that in the human book of life there are possibly twenty-six thousand letters to be comprehended with all their associations of words or letters, which represent a principle as definitely as associations of any two or more letters of the English alphabet can represent a sound or name.  Each of them represents a chemical or soul quality of a distinct division of the great laboratory of nature.  For instance, take four characters, and call together four substances, and unite them by the law of blending individualized principles together, by the law of affinity, and form another principle in compounds commonly known as acid.  The addition of one more chemical and you have sugar.  You have by the addition of the life principle formed another substance from a life chamber; you have separated, dequalified, and returned each one to the place from whence it came, with all the qualities and the same. quantity it contained when it left the individual cell, for the purpose of making by association the one being of which it formed a part, which has been just separated and each part returned to its place without loss of weight or change of principles.

    Let us compare the heart of a man to the trunk of a tree.  By custom, we say the root of a tree, which conveys to the mind the part that is in the ground.  When we speak of the heart of a tree we generally aim to express the center.  When we open the tree we find a dark spot which runs all through the trunk of the tree, surrounded by many rings of wooden growth, one of which appears each year.  As we descend into the earth, keeping this common center, we are led to a place from whence all roots diverge, and the tree with its trunk and all its limbs ascends from this common center.  Would not a philosopher conclude that this is the true heart which sends forth its branches both above and below the surface of the earth?  If this be the heart of the tree, and the root, limbs, and trunk are its products, are we not constrained by the same law of reason to attribute to the animal heart the center of life with all the attributes thereunto belonging?  And in comparison conclude that all above the heart are trunk, limbs, and fruit, and all below are the roots and nutrient system of animal life. on which root and branch have to depend for sustenance.  The difference between the two is that nutrition is received at the bottom of the tree, and carried upward to all its branches, producing fruits of all kinds.

    In man, nutrition is received at the upper part of the body, and, like unto the tree, proceeds to perform the duties of construction.  When completed he exhibits fruits below the heart or root of constructiveness which is known as the off-spring of such beings.  I have given you two beings, one vegetable the other animal, in order to present a comparison of results, although different in form and kinds, believing the heart of all things to be the immediate actor and creator of all forms, without which center of vitality no part can be constructed, sustained, and kept in existence.  Each branch must have stock and interest in this center, constantly receiving nourishment, and reporting progress of construction and vital supply, without which failure is absolute in all cases when extended to all roots and branches of animal life; or death is the effect of universal failure, and equally so with any division of the human superstructure.  The harmony of life must come in its fullest, and perform all duties thereunto belonging from the atoms of the finest nerve to the congregated sum total of the whole animal body, or death will be the result.  Thus we are admonished to remember that the atom is the beginning and ending of animal forms, and their wants must be supplied or construction ceases to control, and destruction becomes the possessor, with full power to close all operations of life through the atoms, corpuscles, and all other fluids, until the final edict of death is recorded in the heart, and from there to all the limbs and trunks of all animals and vegetables.  The heart is undoubtedly the "king of all, lord of all" -- the first in command, the last to yield.  Its statements have never been questioned.  When it moves, you know.  When it stops, you see the end.