Andrew Taylor Still: The Founder of Osteopathy

Andrew Taylor Still

On the morning of June 22, 1874, the American doctor and surgeon Andrew Taylor Still said he had the inspiration to postulate osteopathy. Who was the man who founded this method of osteopathy, which is also becoming popular in Germany?

Andrew Taylor Still's Development
On the way to osteopathy
Herbert Spencer's influence
The development of osteopathy
The rationale of osteopathy
Still and osteopathy
Spread of osteopathy
Source references

Andrew Taylor Still's Development

Still was born in 1828 to the Methodist preacher couple Abram and Martha Still. He was born directly into the clashes between slave advocates and opponents and the heyday of heroic medicine. Still, who like his family was clearly opposed to slaves, worked as a surgeon in the American Civil War. In doing so, he was able to witness how despite or perhaps because of the aggressive treatment methods used at the time, amputations were often premature and many patients died. These observations were accompanied by deaths in Still's family: In 1855 Still and his first wife, Mary Vaughan, lost their son George W. In 1859, a Baby of Stills died four days after birth and a month later Still's wife, Mary. Still remarried in November 1860. As part of an epidemic of cerebrospinal meningitis in early 1864, three children of Still died and his second wife Mary Elvira Turner. In 1867 Still's father fell ill with pneumonia and succumbed to the disease.

On the occasion of these tragic experiences and the dramatic observations made during the war, A.T. Stills in the administration of medication. Still became a seeker: he began to deal with methods and concepts that were outside the normal medical business.

On the way to osteopathy

Phrenology was widespread as a kind of medicine and worldview with naturalistic features. It also bore the name "Skull Teaching" because, among other things, it was possible to deduce personal properties from bulging the skull. Originally developed in Europe by the German doctor and anatomist Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), this method had also become established in America. In the course of time, there had been influences from individual teachers or other methods such as Mesmerism, which changed the original phrenology.

Still must have come into contact with mesmerism and spiritualism during the civil war or shortly thereafter. This was not particularly difficult because spiritualism was quite widespread. Many people were looking for a more vivid variant of religion or spirituality. The co-founder of the Methodists and advocate for naturopathic folk medicine had already denounced the frozen rituals of the church in his writings.

Herbert Spencer's influence

Added to this was Darwin, whose theory of evolution became increasingly widespread and thus influenced many people. In the United States, however, it was the sociologist and philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) who caused a sensation in the field of evolution with his book "First Principles". Spencer emphasized evolution as the principle of his ideas, which related to all components of human life and coexistence and ensured that there was always a striving for superiority. For many people, Spencer combined science and religion in his writings. For this reason, his theories mutated into a kind of substitute belief.

A.T. Still mentions the strong influence Spencer's ideas had on him in justifying osteopathy.
He writes that "Principles of Philosophy" pierced him like an arrow and that he understood that "God means perfection in all things and in all places."

From Still's point of view, illness became “a change in function” and was not, like the view then common, an intrusion of foreign substances from outside. He was thus in the tradition of the French pathologist Professor François Joseph Victor Broussais (1772-1838). The latter was also influenced by Gall's phrenology and founded "Physiological Medicine" (Broussaism) with the cause-effect principle. As with Still, Broussais also refused medication, but his preferred treatment approaches included leech therapy (especially in the organ area) and diets.

The development of osteopathy

Still, in his notes, relates his vision of discovering osteopathy to reading Spencer's writings. He describes it as a kind of revelation and liberation. Still had previously had to fight hostility within his family and the economic situation was not rosy either.

In addition to literary studies, Still had also made practical observations. On the one hand, he opened Indian graves to examine the corpses for their anatomical conditions and to record them in writing. In addition, he is said to have always carried bones in his pocket, which he felt and showed those who were interested to support his theses. On the other hand, he began to identify colder and warmer, as well as more flexible and firmer areas in the body with a so-called "Flux" disease ("high fever, headache and diarrhea - mixed with blood"). He treated all possible illnesses quite successfully and tried to balance the tensions and temperatures by working with his hands. In the course of time he gained more and more experience and observed recurring “abnormal conditions” (Carol Trowbridge) in the same places in the affected person. For example, in whooping cough, he found the muscles "painful and hard, which pulled the collarbones and sternum back onto the nerves of the respiratory system". Still began to learn manual techniques and replaced the ideas derived from magnetism with anatomical ones such as the flow of lymph or blood.

The rationale of osteopathy

Still's treatments were so effective that word spread quickly and patients came to him with various complaints from far away. Gradually, patients wanted to learn this type of treatment, and Still, in 1892, at the urging, decided to set up a class. At first, he was refused admission because the local official believed that this type of treatment was inevitably linked to the person still.

In the end, the first class took place and after initial shortcomings Still was able to perfect the lessons and recruit and train more and more students and teachers. The American School of Osteopathy (ASO) was founded in late 1892. The practice of stills was also fully utilized. It already seemed like pilgrimages to Kirksville, where Still lived and worked with his family. Finally, the local people also participated in osteopathy. They ensured that a hospital was set up in addition to the school, in which some thirty thousand treatments were carried out as early as 1895.

Still and osteopathy

Andrew Taylor Still had created optimal conditions for himself and his ideas after years of moving with his family, never being financially secure and even being hostile within his family. Despite personal fame and monetary success, philosophical ideas and principles were still the most important thing for Still. The ASO was the first medical institution in the United States to accept women. Still also looked after socially needy patients more than wealthy clientele who wanted to be treated exclusively by him.

Still had partly integrated his family into the school, but because of that his family did not enjoy any special status. The ideals of osteopathy always came first for the "old doctor", as he was now called in the environment of school, practice and clinic.

Still, it always refused to have the school named after him and claimed no fame for osteopathy. He always described himself as the discoverer of osteopathy, not as the founder or inventor. Because he was of the opinion that all things were already there in nature and he only had to discover them.

So it was also difficult for him to use pure techniques e.g. mediate for back pain, since he assumed that after knowing the basic principle, the treatment should be clear. In his book "Research and Practice" he wrote: "Then I won't have to worry that I have to write down in detail how to treat the organs of the human body because he (" the osteopath " .) is qualified to a degree to know what has produced variations of every kind in form and movement. I want to set up the compass and pit light in his mind to help him get from symptom to cause of all abnormalities in the body. ”

Until his death in 1917, Still had a lot to do with the nature around him and technical innovations. In 1903 he attended a spiritualist meeting in Iowa and treated asthma, hip pain, shoulder problems and a goiter. After a stroke in 1914, he was unable to speak properly.

Quiet was certainly not an easy person. In order to follow his principles, he reportedly shook other people without hesitation, according to reports. It was also sometimes difficult in social contact. He apparently subordinated everything to his "service" to osteopathy. Since his thinking was very fast and complex and he always ran in his own osteopathic world, some of his words and conversations were difficult for outsiders to understand and understand.

Spread of osteopathy

With the increasing awareness of osteopathy, new problems also developed. The long-established doctors sensed competition and asked for their unique selling proposition to be secured through their well-networked professional organizations. So it came that the recognition of osteopathy was progressing more and more slowly, so that many osteopaths had no certainty in the performance of their work and could count daily that they would be prohibited from practicing. In addition there were other approaches within osteopathy and for Still the washing out of the principles. In the same street as the ASO, the former colleague of A.T. Still, Marcus Ward, 1898 own school, with its own principles: The Columbian School of Osteopathy, Medecine and Surgery. The Littlejohn brothers, especially Martin J., quarreled quietly because they wanted to approach conventional medical operations and integrate them into the classroom. The rejection of stills led to the Littlejohns opening the Chicago College of Osteopathy and Surgery in Chicago in 1900.

Still realizing that he needed to write down his thoughts on osteopathy, Still wrote four books: An Autobiography, "The Philosophy of Osteopathy", "Research and Practice", and "The Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy", which are published today as a complete edition translated as the "Still Compendium" available from Jolandos Verlag.

The osteopathy in the United States also gained more influence and recognition in the pursuit and advocacy of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), better known under his author pseudonym Mark Twain, the author of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. But ultimately it was in the form in which A.T. Still she developed, almost deprived of her soul, also due to the so-called Flexner Report.

1918, one year after the death of A.T. Still, his son Charlie was voted out as vice president and director of the ASO. This act symbolically represented a new phase in American osteopathy, which, however, lacked the pioneering spirit of the Still era. Still had a rather pompous funeral in December 1917. One of Still's favorite songs was on: “Oh, Happy Day”. His last words about osteopathy are said to have been "Keep it pure, boys, keep it pure ...". (tf)

"The Great Still Compendium," Andrew Taylor Still; Published by Christian Hartmann; Jolandos Verlag
"Andrew Taylor Still 1828-1917 A biography of the discoverer of osteopathy" Carol Trowbridge; Jolandos Verlag
"Still's Fascia Concepts"; Jane Stark; Jolandos publishing house

Author and source information

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