Autobiography of Andrew Taylor Still with a History of the Discovery and Development of the Science of Osteopathy by A. T. Still

A fundamental text to begin to know the founder of osteopathy and to understand the cultural context and the historical events during which his life unfolded.

Publisher: Kirksville, MO: Published by the author

Year of publication: 1st edition: 1897. Revised edition: 1908

Number of pages: 1st edition: 524. Revised edition: 416

 

 

 

 

 

The volume saw a first edition in 1897, five years after the opening of the American School of Osteopathy, and a second revised edition eleven years later, in 1908. 

The first edition of Still’s Autobiography contains 33 chapters. 

After the frontispiece there is a page dedicated to the main definitions: first of all the definition of osteopathy, diversified according to its context, ie, legal, historical and technical. Then the definitions of the noun “osteopath”, the adjective “osteopathic” and the adverb “osteopathically” follow. The last one defines the “Diplomate in osteopathy. The  technical  and  official  designation of  a  graduate  and  practitioner  in  Osteopathy,  the formal  title  of  such  graduate  or  practitioner  being  D.  O. – Diplomate  or  Doctor  in  Osteopathy.“.

The first eleven chapters of the Autobiography are dedicated to the events of Still’s life: the childhood in the nature, the move to the territory of Missouri, the life in the Wakarusa mission, the participation in the civil war, the death of his children and the doubts on the efficacy of medicine, the years of study of anatomy and different modalities of therapies, the mechanical inventions, the vision of osteopathy and the difficulty in spreading it, the move to Macon City and then to Kirksville, and finally the second constitutive statute of the American School of Osteopathy (ASO).

Chapter twelve introduces the philosophical foundations of osteopathy. Dr A.T.Still explains how he had studied different methods of treatment for fifty years, reading and expanding his knowledge as much as possible, without, however, finding anything relevant, until the moment he discovered that the perfect mechanisms of nature, if freed from their abnormalities, tend to self-heal. He also points out that learning osteopathy requires an excellent knowledge of anatomy and a practical training course under the guidance of a good teacher, and that it is impossible to learn it from a book. 

The remaining chapters are dedicated to the explanation of osteopathy and report some of the lessons and speeches given by Still in the eighties of the nineteenth century.

The thirty third chapter contains pages of gratitude towards his wife Mary Elvira for the untiring support, advice and encouragement, his children for having followed and helped him to fight his battles, and towards his mother Martha – his biggest friend and the guide to his intelligence. The chapter closes with words of gratitude for all those who had helped him in the moments of difficulty and with the memory of his son Fred, passed away in 1894.

Streangths: A reading essential to understand the historical and philosophical roots of osteopathy. Still‘s dreamy and charming style, very current in his simplicity, although at times not easy to understand, conveys an excellent portrait of the founder’s ideas. On page 454 of the first edition, Still affirms to have written the book in his personal style, which is not as refined as a professional writer’s style and might feel harsh and raw; he apologizes for it, stating that it corresponds to his habitual way to express himself in his speaking.

Weaknesses: The volume, written like a narration mixing memories, reflections, visions, allegories and parables, contains sometimes incorrect information. Still himself declares in the preface of not having kept a precise diary of the events of his life but to have chosen to tell his memories without frills, just like they were impressed in his memory.1

  1. Stark, J.E. “A Degree of Difference: The Origins of Osteopathy and the First Use of the “DO” Designation” Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, vol. 114, no. 8, 2014, pp. 615-617.

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