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


  • Address on Twenty-first Anniversary of the Discovery of Osteopathy, June 22nd, 1895
  • King Alcohol
  • Fitting Out Man for the Journey of Life
  • The Lever that Controls Fever
  • The Great Wisdom Knows No Failure
  • Why "Osteopathy" Was Chosen for This Science
  • Gall-Stones and Cure
    LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: -- I believe this is the usual manner of beginning a speech.  I am of such a timid nature I hardly know how to commence my talk, and will preface it by taking a drink (of water), as I am very dry.

    "I am very dry" is a phrase as old as "Hark from the tomb the doleful sound!" and many men have sung that lullaby.

    How often we hear, "I am mighty dry, my teeth are sore, my gums are swelled, my joints ache," and so on, ad infinitum.  These painful effects have been brought about by the use of gamboge, aloes, castor oil, and kindred angels of recovery.  Such angels stood around us often in the past; and among them was one not always in open view of the neighbors -- one which usually dwelt in the cellar, a short-Decked angel called king-King Alcohol.
    God protect us from the guardianship of such angels! They are stationed around us by the doctors. For physicians, as men, I have due respect, and give them the right hand of fellowship.  They belong to my race, have the same general make-up -- two eyes, two bands, two feet and to go back on them, or to refuse to meet them, would be to plead the baby act.

    We have no intention of conducting ourselves in that way.  We are armed with the unerring javelin of truth, and ready to meet all opponents, adherents of medical theories as well as all others.

    I have no desire to make war on the doctors themselves, but against their fallacious theories.  What does medicine do for you?  By temporarily allaying a disease it often begets a worse thing and fills the system with poison.  In administering it the physician is never sure of results, and can only stand helplessly by, and await developments, trying another remedy when one fails.

    They battle with death over the bedside of their own loved ones, and cry out in anguish of heart: "God give me intelligence and skill to save the angels of my fireside!  Lord, help me!"
    But so long as their methods are not founded on unerring laws, so long will their hands be tied, and they cannot combat successfully either death or disease.  I do not claim to be the author of this science of Osteopathy.  No human hand framed its laws; I ask no greater honor than to have discovered it.

    Its teachings have convinced me that the Architect of the universe was wise enough to construct man so he could travel from the Maine of birth to the California of the grave unaided by drugs.  In 1849, during the gold fever, when men traveled the long route overland, what did they do at the outset of their journey?

    They made all due preparations in the way of provisions, strong wagons with three-inch tires ox-bolts, covers, and everything fit to meet the storms of the plains, and neither did they forget their snake medicine.  Without these cool arrangements and necessary conveniences they would have ended their trip close home, and their desired object would have been unattained.

    God, when He starts man out on the journey of life, fits him out with even greater care than this. Nothing is forgotten -- heart, brains, muscles, ligaments, nerves, bones, veins, arteries, everything necessary to the successful running of this human machine.  But it seems man sometimes doubts that God has loaded his wagon with all needful things, and so sets up numerous drug-stores to help out in the matter.  We have about seven in this city, and they all have plenty to do, and will have until the laws of life are more perfectly understood.

    Man wants to take the reins of the universe into his own hands.  He says in case of fever he must assist nature by administering ipecac and other febrifuges.  But by doing this he is accusing God of incapacity.  You may be sure the Divine intelligence failed not to put into the machine of man a lever by which to control fever.  The Lord never runs out of material; He constructs lawyers, musicians, mechanics, artists, and all the useful men, while I suppose fools are made out of the leavings.

    In the past I stood and watched four physicians, the best the medical schools could furnish, battle with all their skill against the dread disease of cerebro-spinal meningitis in my family.  I found prayers, tears, and medicine all unavailing.  The war between life and death was a fierce one, but at the close of it three lifeless bodies lay in my desolate home.

    In my grief the thought came to me that Deity did not give life simply for the purpose of so soon destroying it -- such a Deity would be nothing short of a murderer.  I was convinced there was something surer and stronger with which to fight sickness than drugs, and I vowed to search until I found it.

    The result was that in 1874 I raised the flag of Osteopathy, claiming that "God is God, and the machinery He put in man is perfect."

    This created quite a consternation.  Three sows among ten goslings would not have made such a fuss.  Some of my friends even went so far as to ask the Lord to take me unto Himself because I had gone back on medicine.  I had simply climbed higher than medicine to the Source of all forms of life.  The Great Wisdom knows no failures and asks no instructions from inferior man.  When He makes a tomato-vine He needs no help.  He supplies it with lungs, trunk, brachial nerves, and arteries.  The Grand Architect of the universe builds without sound of hammer; nature is silent in her work.

    Man is an interesting study.  Think of your three pounds of brain, out of which you only use about one ounce for reason.  You needn't think I am calling you a fool, for it is true that the brain is the rostrum on which thought dwells.

    I have studied man as a machine.  I am an engineer, and know something of locomotives.  I can tell you how the positive force of steam drives the engine forward, and how the steam escapes at the safety-valve.

    Man's heart is his engine, and from this Fulton borrowed his idea of the steamboat and Morse his thought of telegraphy.  You will remember that when Morse was ready to make his first experiment, he was heaped with ridicule.  To the honor of Thomas H. Benton, of Missouri, be it said, when Morse asked aid from Congress he wished success to the, enterprise.  But Henry Clay, the great statesman of Kentucky, said to Mr. Morse: "Go to hell with your d-d nonsense." When Morse asked Congress eight thousand dollars to develop his science, Clay offered an amendment appropriating two thousand to investigate mesmerism.

    Did such abuse injure Morse?  No; when a man has a truth, abuse does him good.  I wouldn't take one thousand dollars for the caw, caw of crows that have croaked at me; they simply act as manure to enrich my life-work.  Some say: "We don't believe Osteopathy can do what is claimed for it." That is all right; for fifteen cents a man can buy a patent right to call anything a humbug.

    I never say I can do anything unless I am very sure of it.  When there is a shut-off in the nutritive supply, starvation is the result, and some part of the body withers away, and physicians can only declare their inability to restore it, for in such a case medicine is of no avail.

    When Christ restored the withered arm, He knew how to articulate the clavicle with the acromian process, freeing the subclavian artery and veins to perform their functions.

    Some people have an idea that this science can be learned in five minutes.  They come here and spend four hours, then go out and declare themselves Osteopaths.

    That is very much as if a man who has made an utter failure as a doctor, farmer, mechanics or a preacher, were to meet an attorney on the street, and after a few minutes' conversation declare himself a lawyer and decide to become circuit judge the following week.  If you can learn all of Osteopathy in four years I will buy you a farm, and a wife to run it and boss you.  I have discovered that man is an engine and his supply comes direct from the arterial system.  When you understand man, you can prove God's perfect work.

    I do not understand a preacher's business.  I have not made a study of the Bible; but the knowledge I have gained of the construction of man convinces me of the supreme wisdom of the Deity.

    Now let us ask the Lord a question, and the asking of such questions is right: Can you, Lord, create man's internal system so he can drink all kinds of water and not have bladder-stones?  The answer would be, Yes.  God has forgotten nothing, and we find a supply of uric acid for destroying stone in bladder or gall-stones.  I have no fear to investigate along this line, for I always find that God has done His work perfectly.  Just see how He has regulated the heart-beats to supply the proper amount of electricity or warmth requisite in various forms of life.

    For twenty-one years I have worked in Osteopathy, yet I keep my throat every ready for the swallowing of new things that constantly appear in it.  I expect to live and die fighting for principle, and shall pay no attention to the twaddle of opposition, merely regarding it as a fertilizer of my work by a fine quality of ignorance.  The Osteopath who keeps his eye on the science, and not on the almighty dollar, will be able to control
    If such work had been carried on in Massachusetts one hundred years ago, all those participating in it would have been drowned or burned at the stake.  For to those ignorant of the laws of life, such wonderful results seem obtained only by witchcraft.  This, the 22d of June, is the anniversary of the child of Osteopathy, the child of which I am justly proud.  And today, on its coming of age, I am happy and welcome you gladly.  On each successive year that I live I hope to meet you here and tell of even greater advancement along these lines.