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


  • Address at Memorial Hall, June 4th, 1896
  • Debtor and Creditor
  • Intermittent Fever
  • Danger of Depopulation
  • A Doctor's Prescription for Fever
  • Electrical Machine in the Brain
  • Injury to Spinal Cord Paralysis
  • Effects of Medicine
  • What an Osteopath Must Know
  • The Seriousness of Studying Osteopathy
  • Courses of Study
  • Definition of Flux
  • Spread of Osteopathy
  • Style of Cases
  • Specific Cases
    I HAVE examined the encyclopedias and histories, but have never found anything in them about Osteopathy.  Twenty-two years ago this month I realized for the first time that the word "God" meant perfection in every particular.

    Previous to that I thought He was imperfection all but a little, and that the imperfection could be filled out by drugs.  I saw that ignorance and drugs were contradictory to every principle of philosophy as a healing principle, the so-called science of medicine being a principle without a foundation.  I then commenced to see how I would go about it.  What is your subject?  What are you talking and thinking about?  I am thinking about that intelligently constructed, self-adjusting, self-firing, and self-propelling machine called the human engine.  That is what I am talking about, what I am trying with my ability to reason about.  I commence and say on the debtor side: "You are a failure, so far as fever is concerned, because a majority vote has said, "You are a failure, 0 Lord!" Don't get excited, any of you people, because I say this.  I will call a witness which is a very strong one to prove it.  When a man is burning up with fever the actions of the people say of God:

    "You are a failure, and we must give him quinine, lobelia, hypodermic syringe, and all such.  "The cuts and the "trys" and the drugs of all Africa are brought to put that fire out.  Here is a burning process going on.  This man has been out in the rain; reaction sets up, his temperature rises, it continues, and you call it fever.  It stops a while, and then comes on again.  What do you call that?  Intermittent fever.  After a while it continues without intermission; we have then fixed and established fever.  "Now, Lord, there is your machine, get him out if you can.  If you cannot, down goes an ipecac, and there is a failure put against you.  Your character as an inventor is at stake before the intellectual and thinking world."

    And God says to the philosopher: "Examine and see if you don't find a button there that can govern cold and heat?"  We all agree that heat is electricity in motion: the greater the velocity the higher the temperature.  When we examine, if we find in the make-up of this machine, which is offered to you as a machine of perfection, that it has the power within itself to create heat, and not the power to destroy it, you have found an imperfection in the machine, which proves an imperfection in the Maker.  The man who uses drugs and hypodermic syringe says you do not know your business.  Take some of these things home with you.  This is the first school which ever raised the flag on the globe, as far as history says, that God is Truth, and this can be proven.  I can take His works' and prove His perfection; and he who takes his good old whisky and drugs, and says God is Perfection, is a liar.  He who has lung fever, pneumonia, flux, or any fever, and drinks his whisky, denies the whole idea of the perfection of God.  He slaps it in the face, and not only that, but in effect says, God is a failure.

    I have been called a fanatic.  Why?  Because I have asserted that the divine mind had plenty of intelligence and a great deal to spare; and you have been taking some of it in to make a practical and sensible use of it for yourself and families.  Without that confidence in the powers found in that machine, what will your old earth be doing?  She will be courting the moon that revolves around it, without a living human soul on it, in a few thousand years.  Our digitalis, our whisky, our opium, and other foolish things that are called remedies, are fast driving from the face of the earth the human family.  Two hundred and eighty thousand morphine sots in the city of New York ten years ago.  Chloral hydrates world without end.  Nearly seventy thousand have had their arms punched by Keeley to knock out -- what?  The whisky habit.

    Dr. Smith, I wish you would come up here.  This is Dr. Smith, our professor in anatomy and physiology.  I want to know if you do not believe, from your own observation, that the so-called science of medicine, with its stimulants and its other poisons, is doing more harm than good?


    She is filling the insane asylums, loading the gallows, and supplying the Keeley Institutes with their thousands annually.  That is what your school is doing.

    Dr. Smith: "I am not of that school now, doctor; I am of your school."

    Where does this thing start?  A man goes down to the creek after some fish, and somebody tells him to take a jug of whisky along for fear he might get wet.

    He catches a few catfish.  He hasn't many of them, but is going to make it up on that whisky.  After a while he has what we call fever.  The doctor says: "You need a dose of calomel; however, I would suggest that you follow it up with a few sharp doses of quinine, and it would not be amiss to take a little whisky." That is our medical science.  The result is drunkenness, insanity, death, showers of tears from families entitled to that man's intelligent services.

    Realizing our condition, I set about to learn whether the God of the whole universe had been foolish enough to construct a machine and throw it into space without rudders or brakes to stop it when going downhill, or without any claws to bold it when it goes up; or without any remedy placed in that machine called "perfection."  The Book says, "And the Lord said, Let us make
man." I suppose there must have been a council, and it must have been a mighty poor council which made a man that wouldn't work.

    Let us examine man, and the Maker of man, and see if we can find where He made a failure; and until that is done keep your ipecac, with its music, in your pocket.

    Some people think Osteopathy is a system of massage, others that it is a "faith cure." I have no "faith" myself, I only want the truth to stand on.  Another class think it is a kind of magnetic pow-wow.  It is none of these, but is based upon a scientific principle.  If these electric lights are based upon a scientific principle, it must be borrowed capital.  From what machine was it borrowed?  I think we can find that the first thought in regard to that machine came from looking over the human brain, finding there two lobes containing sensation and motion.  That when those two lobes were brought together we found the positive and negative parts of electricity.  On that principle Dr. Morse began his researches and gave us the first principle of telegraphy.  Other eminent electricians have followed up the same thought.  They have also discovered that the batteries supplying the
electricity must be of opposite elements.  They must be brought together, the parts contained in the opposing poles.  Where does the electrician get these principles?  They are suggested by the human brain with its two lobes.  He finds the electricity conducted throughout the whole system.  If the spinal cord is destroyed, motion comes to a standstill.  Now, suppose we would call these lights in the center of the room the spinal cord.  By turning off the lights, we represent to a reasoning man a stroke of paralysis.  An Osteopath who is not too anxious to go out before he knows anything, suggests a principle, a reason, a foundation on which to build.  I will demonstrate to you that the spinal cord supplies all other parts.  It is that which supplies life to the whole machine.

    (Demonstrations with electric lights.  Lights in the center turned off.)

    While these lights are off, suppose you try to make them burn by digging around the corner of the house, pouring things into the chimneys or any other available place.  Would that help matters?  Would an intelligent electrician that knew the A B C's of his business expect to renew the lights by any such process?  If I had a son, and he was thirty-five years old, and didn't know more than that in adjusting the human engine, I would have a guardian appointed for him, and tell him to use the hypodermic syringe on both sides of his head.  There is only one principle by which that paralysis can be cured, and that is to open up from the battery the electric wires on which it will travel, which are now obstructed.  An Osteopath says he can do that, and there it is. (Lights turned on.)

    Where is the philosopher who will stand up and show so little sense at this age of electricity as to come in here and say this is the most stupendous humbug on the face of the earth?  The right hand of God of the universe is with us, and we are sending the light more and more over the world. I expect when I am gone that I will come back every week or so to see what Osteopathy is doing. I want to see if it is run off of I the face of the earth. In the earlier ages the people didn't know anything of medicine, and they lived a long time. The less they knew of it, the more good food they ate and the longer they lived.

    Our work here is to overcome the effects of medicine.   Nine-tenths of the cases that come here, while they are wrenched and strained in many places in the body, have to be treated first by turning on the nerves of the excretory organs of the system, for the purpose of cleaning up the dirty house in which we find the human soul dwelling. What do we find? We find the liver not acting properly, we find some lung affected, we find stones in the gall-bladder.  We go a little farther down to the renal nerves, veins, and arteries, to those of the kidneys.  They are out of order.  We go down to the water-bladder, and there find some specimens.  Specimens of what?  Of the thoughtless stupidity of man, who, by taking medicine, has converted the liver into a bank of cinnabar.  A few doses of calomel, and out go the teeth.  Any person in the audience has the privilege of raising
his hand and saying I am wrong, if I state anything that is not correct.  I am fighting for God, and am going to hit them square in the face.  While I am here I expect to tell the straight, unvarnished truth.  In order for a man to comprehend, he must do something.  The patient can comprehend he has something to do, to know whether he has the backache or not.  He can comprehend enough to know he has the backache one hour, and next he does not have it, which knowledge makes him
happy.  An Osteopath must know the shape and position of every bone in the body, as well as that part to which every ligament and muscle is attached.  He must know the blood and the nerve supply.  He must comprehend the human system as an anatomist, and also from a physiological standpoint.  He must understand the form of the body and the workings of it.  That is a short way to tell what an Osteopath must know.  Of course you can have a little knowledge of Osteopathy and do some things, but not know how it is done.  Before you can go out in the world and fight the fight, you must master human anatomy and physical laws.  Dr. Smith has been teaching anatomy for four years, and if he were out half a mile from here I would say that his qualifications are surpassed by nothing I have met with in my travels over America.  He can tell you anything you want to know about anatomy or physiology, and give you the authority for it.  He has stuck to it; and he knows it.  It is not because he is smarter than other men, but he has stuck to it until he knows the construction of the human machine and its workings.  I do not believe any man knows all about it; there is plenty for any one to learn.  If a man comes here to take a course in this science, it is a serious matter unless he is a trickster, and comes here with the intention of getting a little knowledge and then skipping out to fool a lot of people.  But if he means to stand by it and get all the good there is in it, it is a serious matter, and should be considered as seriously as the subject of picking out a girl for a wife, or as seriously as he would say his prayers if he were going to be hung.  If he goes at it in this way he will not go far until he learns there are ten thousand chambers in the human body that have never been intelligently explored.  He can jump over a great deal if he wants to.  A man can learn his A B C's and the winding up of the Greek verb.  He has jumped.  Just so in studying anatomy a man can jump; and when he comes out here, and tells you that he thoroughly understands all of this science of Osteopathy, even a respectable quantity, in less than two years, he jumps a little.

    We have been placed in a peculiar position.  So many people are suffering, and there is nothing at home but drugs and blisters, and they are begging for our juveniles.  They will make them enticing offers, and ask us to let them go.  Previous to the commencement of this class we tried to accommodate the people as best we could.  But I tell you the philosopher is born after
twenty-four months; no nine months' gestation will give you an Osteopath.  It must be after a gestation of two years, and then they are only beginners.  Even here, where, as Professor Blitz, of London, England, says, we have the greatest clinical advantages on the face of the earth, the greatest facilities for comprehending anatomy -- even though that is the case at the end of two years, our very best and most competent operators would like for me to carry the load, as the young man who gives dad the heaviest end of the log, because the skin on his shoulder is tough.

    We control all of the fevers of this or any other climate, all of the contagious diseases, such as mumps, chicken-pox, scarlet fever, measles, diphtheria, or whooping-cough; also flux, constipation, diseases of the kidneys and of the spine.  We deal with the brain, the liver, lungs, and the heart.  In short, every division of the whole human body, with all its parts.

    I can take a young man in here for a little while and make an imitator of him, and send him out so he can handle diphtheria or croup in seven cases out of ten; and he can handle some headaches.  What is the condition?  He is like my polly.  "Polly wants a cracker," and don't know what he is saying or doing.  You ask him where the glosso-pharyngeal nerve is, and he will say he don't remember; he will look in his book for it.  We want you to thoroughly understand anatomy so that it will come to you as quick as "ouches!" to a Dutchman's mouth when he gets his finger hurt.  It ought to be second nature.  It should be as indelibly fixed as passing the hat is on the minister's mind, a duty not to be omitted before be closes.

    Since the school was incorporated we have established such rules as we think necessary to the attainment of a thorough knowledge of anatomy.  First, you have anatomy, and that is a great book. After you have mastered it you take physiology, which is just twice as much as anatomy.  Then we have what we call symptomatology.  We take up the different symptoms or a combination of symptoms.  One indicates toothache, another something else.  Suppose there has been a stoppage of blood supply of the stomach, what is the result?  What we call cancer.  Another symptom would indicate pneumonia.  What is pneumonia?  You take an Osteopath that knows his business thoroughly, and he can give you the diagnosis and never use a single term of the old schools.  Take scrofula, consumption, eczema, every one of them.  There is a broken current, an unfriendly relation existing between the capillaries of the veins and arteries.

    What is flux?  An abortive effort of the artery to feed the vein.  The vein contracts and the artery spills the blood at the nearest place, passes through the bowels, and death results.  The doctor gives his quinine, kino, his gourd-seed tea, and other poisons, and adds his mustard-plasters.  The child dies.  It is a Baptist child, and they bring it to Brother Morgan, and he says: "Whereas, it pleased God to take that child."

    I don't believe Brother Morgan would say that.  He would say: "I believe this death is through the ignorance of the doctor; that child should have lived and worked, as that was the will of God."

    I came here tonight to tell you that the science of Osteopathy, as little as is known of it now, bids fair in a very few years to penetrate the minds of the philosophers of the whole earth, whether they speak English or not.  Today it is known not only by the English nations of the world, but it is known in Germany, it is known in France.  Possibly not so well known as the cyclone in St. Louis, but, like that cyclone, commencing there and working all over the country, this cyclone will show itself in the legislatures inside of a very few years.  Intelligent men, competent to investigate a science, and honest enough to tell the truth when they have investigated, cannot fail to see the results of Osteopathy.  They see Osteopathy coming home with the scalps of measles, mumps, flux, diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping-cough, and croup under its arm.  The philosopher has discovered that nature has the ability to construct a machine that is trustworthy under all climates.  Here is a man living at New Orleans.  It does not take much for him to breathe down there; he breathes once in a while and gets along all right.  He goes farther north and finds himself at 720 or 730 north latitude.  What does he find?  He breathes faster, his lungs are stronger, and the heart dispenses a larger quantity of electricity.  That throws the electric current much faster, and it keeps him warmer in the colder weather.  Pick the man up and drop him in New Orleans, and you would have to put him in water to keep him cool.  He would be warmer because his lungs are increasing the action of electricity.  I picked up a chicken today that had not a feather on its back. (It was just ready for the preacher.) What was the motion of that chicken's heart?  It must have been 180, maybe 280.  Why was the heart running at such a velocity as that?  To keep that chicken warm until the feathers came out.  At every stroke of the Master Architect of the universe, you will see the proof of intelligence, and His work is absolute.

    I wish to speak of the ability of our operators to judge as to your case.  They have studied anatomy and physiology to completion; then they were placed in the operating-rooms, after having passed through the training in the clinics.  They are skilled operators, and know by experience when they are turning a button or on off, and have handled fifteen or twenty thousand cases, about the number of patients who visit here annually.  If there is anything one of them does not comprehend, it
goes direct to the next one above; and if they all get puzzled, they come and ask me, and I go to guessing.  When you come here, go in there and call out an investigation before the operators, and talk to them as though you considered they had some intelligence and some sense, and don't stand there and say you want the "old doctor."  The old doctor is not going to do this work if you pick up and go home.  When a man has worked and built up a science like this, and has spent twenty years in doing it, if he has failed to impart that knowledge he should quit.  I have men here who know their business, and I simply ask you to treat them with respect until they shall have examined your case.  Once in a while there is a very dangerous case, where a person is between life and death, and they come to me about it, and I look at it.  I can't set every toe, elbow, or joint of the twenty thousand who annually come here.  When you are talking to a graduate of this school, you are talking to a man who knows a great deal about the body, and his conclusions are correct.  There are some who think they know more about our business after they have been in the house five minutes than those who have been here five years.  I am within a few days of sixty-eight, and I shall put in the rest of my days preaching here.  I am glad to meet you on the street and have a friendly chat, but when you want to talk about your case, go and see the secretary.  I believe I can teach this science to others, or I should quit it.  I dragged ten years' miserable existence working too hard when there was no use of it.  I have put in tens of thousands of dollars here to demonstrate to you that I can teach it, and that men do know it.  I do not go over the town at the birth of every child.  The people send for one of the operators, expect results, and they get them.  I don't want people tapping on the window for me to stop and examine them after such men as Dr. Hildreth or Dr. Patterson or others have passed on their cases.  I am willing to stop on the porches and talk with you, and have a good time, but I don't want to examine you.  I know you can have it done better here.  You come here an old skeleton with but little meat on it, and sneak in as if you were ashamed to come.  You are ashamed to come, and many of you don't let your husbands know it.  That is your side of it.  What have you had?  You have had the surgeon's knife lacerate your body, and some leading nerve of the body cut out.  You come here and expect of us, what?  To make a man or woman out of you after you have been slashed up as if you had had a fight in Russia with three wild boars.  The ham-strings are cut; can you make a leg out of it?  Can you make an arm when the sub-clavian artery is cut?  Nine out of ten who come here for treatment have tried everything else.  They say they are hopeless; but I don't believe a word of that, or they would not come here.  Many have been operated upon.  They have goitre and have been treated by the knife, the thyroid artery cut, the hypodermic syringe, acids, and poisons used.  We don't want that kind of a case because the arteries that supply the parts have been destroyed.  We have less material to work with than we want.  You come here loaded with digitalis, what for?  Why, on account of heart trouble.  What do we find?  We find a heart probably longer than it ought to be, or too wide.  I caution my operators in such cases not to deal with that set of nerves so as to throw too great force on the heart, but let it on easy.  I say to them:

    "Boys, don't flatter any man, woman, or child who comes here.  Tell them there is some hope.  Two to four weeks will show what chance there is for them.  I don't want the patients to say, 'Dr.  Landes would not give me any assurance about it.'"  He is not going to do it and stay with me.  Dr. Patterson, or Dr. Charley, my son, will not give you any flattery.  If they can give you a ray of hope they will do so.  You come here with what you call aneurism of any great vessel leading to the heart.  Suppose Dr. Charley examines that heart; he hears a rasping sound.  He asks you who said it was aneurism.  You answer, Dr. Neely, or else say Dr. Mudge, or Fudge, of St. Louis, or some other place.  There is the rasping, roaring sound.  You can easily hear it.  Aneurism -- what is that? Dr. Charley Still, what do you find there?  He says to the patient, "When did you first notice that?" "A horse scared by a pig threw me off, and then my heart made the noise."  "How long afterward?" "Two minutes."

    Dr. Smith, how long does it take to make aneurism on an artery?  Answer: "Weeks or months." And his heart made that noise in two minutes after being thrown from his horse.  I myself was thrown from a horse and got a jolt, and that set my heart tooting, and they told me it was valvular disturbance.  That noise indicates that the phrenic nerve and some muscles are not acting right, and every time the bow or artery is drawn across it makes that noise.  They go back to Kentucky cured of so-called aneurism.

    I think it is useless to talk further, as the night is hot, and it takes a great deal of patience to be patient such an evening as this, so I will bid you goodnight.