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


  • As an Inventor
  • The Tired Arm
  • The Reaper and Mower
  • The Rake
  • The Steel Fingers
  • An Invention Lost
  • On a Farm
  • A Smart Wife
  • Churning
  • The Philosophy of Butter
  • Another Invention
  • Studying the Drive-Wheels of Nature
  • The Science of Osteopathy Developed
    As Osteopathy is a science built upon the principle that man is a machine, I will have to draw your attention to the fact that I began the study of machinery in 1855 and continued to 1870.  We had millions of broad acres of wheat, oats, and rye, growing, ripening, and being harvested; and the feeble right arm of man was the only servant on whom the nations could depend for their bread.  That year I began to study the question, How shall this arm be made to enjoy the benefits, if possible, of those great and glorious words, "Forever free, without regard to race or color"?

    From a boy of fourteen my arm was a willing, though the tired and sore servant of my side.  My father, brothers, and hired help, with all the harvest men all over the land, seemed to send up their hopeless groans for relief; each succeeding year seemed bringing news to the arm that you and your posterity shall ever be servants and swing the side cradle from morning until night, or go to bed hungry, with all dependent upon you.

    At this time the skilled arts had thought out and manufactured a mowing-machine, with a blade or sickle about four feet long, so attached that it extended out at right angles four to six feet farther than the right wheel of the machine.  It had a bar and many sections called blades, so adjusted as to fit slots made in fingers attached to the sickle for the purpose of cutting hay, native, or wild.

    At about this time there was something like a reel placed upon the machine which would push the grass backward as it was falling after being cut.  Then by a rake some one would throw it off in bunches on the ground.

    I saw that here was much relief coming to the arm, but the labor was just as hard for the man who threw the grain off as the one who swung the scythe and cradle.  It was profitable, inasmuch as one man can push the grain off as fast, as two horses could travel in a swath of six feet.  So I began to reason on the mowing-machine, and thought out a plan where I could make two long steel fingers that would stay in place and catch the falling grain.  They were made strong enough to hold fifty pounds without sagging.  When a sufficient quantity fell upon these fingers to make a bundle, I would bear upon the lever and instantly jerk those steel fingers from under the grain and let it fall upon the ground in a bunch for the binder.

    During the progress of my invention I was, as I now remember, visited by a representative of the Wood Mowing Machine Co., located some place in Illinois.  During the next season the Wood Company sent out reapers with fingers to catch the falling grain, which was held up by machinery until grain enough accumulated to make a bundle.  Then the driver let the fingers fall to the ground and passed out from under the wheat.  Wood had the benefit of my idea in dollars and cents, and I had the experience.  The world was at the beginning of a reaping revolution.  No more swinging the old cradles and scythes.  Reapers and mowers took their place.  So much for the study of the machinery of the harvest-field.

    Soon after the aching arm had been set at liberty through improved machinery, I proceeded to purchase a farm, horses, cattle, hogs, chickens, and the necessary rigging to run it.  We had a number of cows and a great deal of milk.  My family was small, my wife was sharp, and I had to churn.  I churned and banged away for hours.  I would raise the lid and lick the dasher, go through all the maneuvers of churning and pounding milk by the hour.  I would churn and churn and churn, and rub my arm and churn, until I concluded that churning was as hard work as harvesting with the old cradle.  But the churning brought me into a study of the chemistry of milk, cream, casein, margarine, and butyric acid, until I found that each atom of butter was incased in a covering of casein, similar in form to a hen egg.  Now the question was how to break the eggs and get the shells off of them.  I constructed a drive-wheel eight inches in diameter to match the end of a pinion attached to the upper end of a half-inch rod, which extended from the top to the bottom of the churn.

    On this rod I had an adjustable arm, with a hole through it, and a set-screw to fasten it to a rod so as to raise or lower to suit the quantity of milk in the churn.  Tin tubes were fastened to the outer ends of the arm in holes, so as to dip up the milk, by these tubes, which were inclined down for that purpose.  The receiving end through which the milk passed was one inch in diameter, coming out through a half-inch hole.  Thus you see the tube was made tapering from receipt to exit of the milk.  With this drive-wheel, pinion, and rod that crossed into an iron socket at the end of the churn, I could easily get a motion of the cups equal to five hundred or thousand revolutions per minute.  This would throw the milk and cream against the resisting wall of the churn with the velocity of three to five miles a minute.

    I succeeded in breaking the egg that contained all the elements found in butter, and give the hungry children butter from this new churn in one minute and a quarter from the word go, temperature and all being favorable. Three to ten minutes was my average time spent in churning by this new invention.

    This was the first time that I had learned to rejoice that I had made one of my worst enemies, the churn, the footstool of amusement.  I spent some time in introducing my new invention, until the summer of 1874.  This year I began a more extended study of the drive-wheels, pinions, cups, arms, and shafts of life, with their forces and supplies, framework, attachments by ligaments, muscles, origin, and insertion.  Nerves, origin and supplies, blood supply to and from the heart, and how and where the motor-nerves received their power and motion; how the sensory nerves acted in their functions, voluntary and involuntary nerves in performing their duties, the source of supplies, and the work being done in health, in the obstructing parts, places, and
principles, through which they passed to perform their part of the functions of life; all awoke a new interest in me.

    I believed that something abnormal could be found some place in some of the nerve divisions which would tolerate a temporary or permanent suspension of the blood either in arteries or veins, which effect caused disease.

    With this thought in view I began to ask myself, What is fever?  Is it an effect, or is it a being, as commonly described by medical authors?  I concluded it was only an effect, and on that line I have experimented and proven the position I then took to be a truth, wonderfully sustained by nature, responding every time in the affirmative.  I have concluded after twenty-five years' close observation and experimenting that there is no such disease as fever, flux, diphtheria, typhus, typhoid, lung-fever, or any other fever classed under the common head of fever.  Rheumatism, sciatica, gout, colic, liver disease, nettle-rash, or croup, on to the end of the list of diseases, do not exist as diseases.  All these separate and combined are only effects.  The cause can be found and does exist in the limited and excited action of the nerves only, which control the fluids of parts or the whole of the body.  It appears perfectly reasonable to any person born above the condition of an idiot, who has familiarized himself with anatomy and its working with the machinery of life, that all diseases are mere effects, the cause being a partial or complete failure of the nerves to properly conduct the fluids of life.

    On this stone I have builded and sustained Osteopathy for twenty-five years.  Day by day the evidences grow stronger and stronger that this theory is correct.

    On June 22d, 1874, I flung to the breeze the banner of Osteopathy.  For twenty-three years it has withstood the storms, cyclones, and blizzards of opposition.  Her threads are stronger today than when the banner was first woven.  Her colors have grown so bright that millions now begin to see and admire and seek shelter under her protecting folds from disease and death.  Mothers and fathers come by legions, and ask why this flag was not thrown to the breeze before.

    It has taken many years to prepare the ground to sow the seeds of this as well as any other truth that has come to benefit man; so be patient, have faith in God and the final triumph of truth, and all will end well.