Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, STRANGERS, BOYS, AND LITTLE GIRLS:
We have passed through a great national conflict -- thirty years have come
and gone since then. We had great speeches in those times from such
men as Lincoln, Seward, Chase, and thousands of mouths were then opened
for the sustaining of the American flag. Those speeches will be read
with interest for years to come. But no speech did I ever listen
to during the hours of the Rebellion, while in camp-life or on the bloody
fields of war, where men fell like stars from heaven to defend their principles
on both sides, and to sustain the flag that should be respected by the
nations of the world -- no speech has ever come from man's mouth which
equaled the one from that little girl when she numbers her bones, rightly
placing, naming, and giving the uses of them. That is the kind of
intelligence we want. I have been proud when I met men that were
with me on the field of battle on either side, but I do not know that my
heart ever had a sweeter feeling than while that little girl was saying
her bone, muscle, and ligament piece. Teach your children that, and
they will have less use for war. War comes to settle a difficulty
through which the brain cannot see. Here is something encouraging
-- nice girls, nice flowers, and the smiling faces, and I know every one
of you intends to master anatomy. It is their parents' duty to teach
them something of this. They should know every muscle and its use,
every ligament and its use, the bones and the blood vessels, because the
surgeon's uncompromising knife today quivers over the heads of thousands
Address on Sixty-Ninth Birthday
Tribute to a Little Anatomist
When Still Was Off
A Warrior from Birth
Who Discovered Osteopathy?
Clairvoyant and Clairaudient
Born to Know Something of Drugs
The Fight to Preserve Health
Climatic Effect on the Lungs
Why I Love God
in the United States, and, like the eagle, tears their vitals from
them, not even eating their flesh when they are dead.
We have met here on this birthday occasion, which
is also the anniversary of three or four other important events.
Three years ago today the first shovelful of dirt was removed from the
southeast corner of the center of this building. When marked out,
the stakes were seventy or eighty feet apart. The people looked at
me and said: "Is Still going to put up that large a building? What
is the matter with him? We always heard he was a little off -- we
know he is off now." A year ago
last May he was off again by building the north and south additions,
and there is no telling what day he will be off again.
Thirty-five years ago this day, the blood of brothers
was spilled in this city by the cannon, sword, and cold lead. Sixty-nine
years ago a great question was before the thinking people of the State
of Virginia. They said there was something strange appeared about
three miles west of Jonesboro. The wise men of the East and the women
of the West were called together. They said, "What is it?" They studied
a minute; an old lady said, " P-p-perhaps it is a baby." As near
as I can remember I was a warrior at that time, and I told them so in plain
English in less than one hour. My mother said I could come as near
saying "war" (wab) as any child she ever saw when I was an hour old.
I could say it with a kind of a Southern twang, and it has been war ever
since for some cause.
Now you are interested in this great question of
Osteopathy. When a preacher gets up, be takes a text; then he preaches
to it and from it, just as he can. If I take my text, I expect I
will preach a good ways from it. My text is this: Who discovered
Osteopathy? Twenty-four years ago, the 22d day of next June, at ten
o'clock, I saw a small light in the horizon of truth. It was put
in my hand, as I understood it, by the God of nature. That light
bore on its face the inscription: "This is My medical library, surgery,
and obstetrics. This is My book with all directions, instructions,
doses, sizes, and quantities to be used in all cases of sickness, and birth,
the beginning of man; in childhood, youth, and declining days." I am something
of what people call "inspired." We Methodists call it "intuitive." The
other classes have different names for it -- clairvoyant and clairaudient.
Sometimes I was so clairvoyant that I could see my father twenty miles
from home: I could see him very plainly cutting a switch for my brother
Jim and I, if we hadn't done a good day's work. That is called clairvoyance.
Then I could hear him say: "If you don't plow faster I will tan you twice
a week." That is clairaudience.
I was born to know something of drugs. I knew
they tasted nasty; I knew they made me sick, and very sick; I knew I didn't
like them. I grew up with the question, as soon as I was old enough
to reason at all, whether or not God justified by any means whatever the
idea that a man should be released from one poison by the use of another.
That if the season should be cold, hot, wet, or dry, and you should become
sick, which makes poisons in the blood, stagnation, making a new matter
in it, which strikes the vital forces, and there causes a contention.
Vitality is all the while trying to check and throw off all impurities,
and keeps the body in a continual fight. Fight for what? To
maintain its ground as a healthy body. I commenced the hunt when
but a child, and kept it up until I was forty years old. I could
see the action of electricity; I could see it give out lights in the heavens
when there was no blacksmith up there to hammer out the sparks. I could
see the stars flying across the heavens in 1834 -- firecrackers in heaven.
How is that firecracker work done? Is there any firecracker work
going on in the human blood? Where is your battery? What is
the matter with your battery when you have fever? What is fever?
Oh, the eminent authors say it is a peculiar increase of temperature, causes
unknown. As we don't know them, we will give them a name so we will
know what to call them. We will name them typhus, typhoid, malarial,
etc., according to the seasons of the year. We name them according
to something. They have a system of naming them; we call it symptomatology.
It is a species of anatomy when you study it. You put the parts all
together, and you have made a something, and that is croup. You put
in some variations, and it is called fever. Subtract something, and
put in two or three other kinds of something, and you have pneumonia.
Subtract a little and add a little, and you have flux. Subtract four
and add two, and you have fits. The doctor has treated the effect,
and not the cause; therefore it has been necessary to make laws in their
It has been necessary during the last twenty years
to fortify against individual attacks on the system, because the people
are like that little girl. They know how many bones they have in
their wrist. Forty years ago it was not supposed that a woman knew
whether she had one bone above the elbow or one hundred, and a great many
could not tell. She could not train her child differently, because
anatomy to her was a blank.
During the last twenty years there has been a discussion
as to whether we will be benefited by taking any grade of drugs, or if
it would not be better to take some kind of diet. We have diet-shops
in America and in Europe; we buy and eat from both, and grunt just as loud
as if we had never heard of either.
Now let us see what condition man is in. He
occupies all the zones on the globe except a few off north, and we are
going to have them occupied by a balloon next week.
When some travel they must have some peculiar kind
of bread, baked on a large-legged skillet or a three-hundred-legged skillet,
or they cannot exist. What are the health resorts? They are
places supposed to have certain kinds of diet; you must eat a certain amount,
at a certain hour, and go to bed at a certain time. In America we
go to bed early or late, eat anything we want, and all we want, if we can
get it. We have proven here that the health-grub business is not
necessary, and we can do entirely without it; that is, the system of eating
just so-and-so or you will die. If the stomach is connected with
the right battery, the brain and the nerves of nutrition are working right,
you can eat a long-legged frog and live on it; you can eat dog and thrive
on it. If you don't believe it, just get a piece of beef in this
town, and if you can eat it, you can eat anything. The wise
Architect of the universe put that mill there and it will grind anything
that is nutritious. This being so, there is not much use for your
big mills to grind in a certain way as for you to have your battery and
machinery so they can run as God in His judgment intended when He put them
there. We find that He is competent and knows how to do His work,
and when He has done a job, you can't better it.
How did I discover Osteopathy? Who was with
me when I discovered it? Who assisted me in discovering it?
I will give one hundred dollars for the man's photograph who has added
one single thought to it.
I took the position in 1874 that the living blood
swarmed with health corpuscles to all parts of the body. Interfere
with that current of blood, and you steam down the river of life and land
in the ocean of death. That is the discovery. The arteries
bring the blood and wash it with the spirit of life. The living arteries
from this world. It fills all space and forms the clouds. If
competent and knows His business, He has certainly made a good job.
With that conclusion shall I sustain His wisdom, and try to work the machine
as He has formulated it, or shall I cast my lot with the dark shades of
ignorance and superstition?
When I raised that little flag (Osteopathy) it was
not a very large one, but I said I would swear by the eternal God and His
works all my life. If there bad been a bombshell thrown among you
tonight, it would create no greater consternation than I did when I declared
that God was no drug doctor. They wanted me to repent before it was
everlastingly too late, and thought that possibly for the sake of my father
I might be saved. My own brothers were of the opinion that I was
going to the d-l as fast as the wheels of time would take me. What
was my crime? I declared that God was wisdom and His works a success;
that was the crime.
My brother prayed for me, and I worked for him, and
at the end of eighteen years he came to my mourners' bench. Jacob
worked seven years for his wife; I eighteen for my brother. He comes
now and says: "It is the greatest blessing ever bequeathed to mankind."
In 1874, my honorable brother, whose word is worth
all the gold that he could carry on his back, honestly believed that I
had one foot in h-1, and be would have to catch me by the coat-tail and
jerk me out. I told him that God blessed no such things as quinine,
morphine, opium, whisky, or fly-blisters. He said to me, "You are
talking wild; I advise you to quit that right now. There is great
danger of your being lost.
Time passed on, and after a little while he said:
"I would like to talk a little about this matter.
How do you account for fever? How do you account for a cold head?"
"In proportion to the velocity with which the heart
brings the electricity that is generated in the brain, the temperature
is high or low." He said, "I have a pain in my side, and have been
thinking of taking a little quinine and Dover's powders." I said to him,
"If you will stand here for a moment, I think I can stop it. It is
my opinion that the vena azygos major has failed to disgorge in time."
I gave him a treatment which disgorged the blood, and the man was at ease.
I then said, "If you think you are converted, I will baptize you now."
He was a graduate from a Chicago university of medicine. I asked
him if he had not studied there some about the brain force and nerves?
He answered, "Not in that way!" "Now, when you give a dose of quinine,
what do you address it to? Is it to the circulation of the blood?
What do you expect to do? Contract the blood vessels and force the
blood to run faster? Do you intend to contract or enlarge them ?"
"I believe," he says, "that the effect is possibly to contract them, though
I haven't given much thought on that subject. It may possibly strike
the cerebellum, and force the blood with greater power, through arterial
"Did it ever occur to your mind when both mules didn't
go up the hill, that one was pulling downward? How would it do to
turn both tails uphill? The battery of life, the motor force, is
throwing the blood from the heart through the arteries, but it is not carried
back in the right shape, and it becomes blocked by the veins. You
put your quinine and opium in there, and the vein
opens its mouth and the blood goes on and the circuit is made.
As soon as completed, force of electricity throws it out, and he feels
You asked me to talk to you on this anniversary occasion,
and I am talking plainly. I love God. What do I love Him for?
Because I cannot find any contradictions when I examine His works.
The rising of the sun is to be depended on. Take the eclipse the other
day; mathematics told us to a fiftieth part of a second when it would occur.
Read your papers and see if that is not correct. When did they tell
us? Twelve months ago. The mathematics of heaven are perfectly
trustworthy. The comets make their time, and are back from their circuit
when they promise to be. The earth goes round the sun on time to
a minute. If she should stop to talk politics, it would jerk your
head off. I love God because His works are perfect and trustworthy,
does not need any help, and did not make man's stomach to be a slop-pail
for any dopes or pills, big or little. I love Him who makes pure
blood by His machine, takes dead matter and imbues it with living force
from crude material, and it becomes a working muscle. I love Him
because He can put the sight in your body, hearing, sense of touch -- in
fact, all the five senses, and about five hundred other kinds of senses
on top of them. I love Him because He is a photographer. What
does He photograph? Your mind is a sensitive plate, and every word
that is said is photographed there, and when you want to look at them you
raise up the glass; you call that memory. The sensitive plate takes
up your dreams and visions. That is as old as time. Some of
us do not have to go to sleep to see visions.
I am glad to meet you here on my birthday.
I do not expect to have many more such celebrations. I am now sixty-nine
years old; next year makes seventy. My father died at seventy-one,
my mother at eighty-nine. As long as I live I shall be an uncompromising
defender of Osteopathy. I don't need much of it myself, as I am pretty
well, but for the sake of the cripples I will try and give a few lessons
as to how often they should take treatment and when to quit. I hope
for a brilliant future for Osteopathy. When I am dead, if I get to
come back here, I expect to see Osteopathy ahead of all other "pathies,"
and men growing up with better minds, brains, nerves, and better all over.
I thank you for your attention.