The Old Doctor by Leon Elwin Page

A small volume dedicated to the story of Andrew Taylor Still, and to the birth and development of the idea of osteopathy.

Publisher: The Journal Printing Company, Kirksville, Missouri

Year of publication: 1932

Number of page: 52






Leon E. Page, D.O., was a lecturer at the ASO and at the Chicago College of Osteopathy, as well as author of some books on anatomy and on the principles of osteopathy.

This booklet is an acknowledgement to the founder of osteopathy and is divided into six parts:

I. The pioneer. The work opens with the anecdote of the first lesson of anatomy and the description of the rough frontier life. Page describes the education of a young Andrew Taylor Still and his early passions, including a curiosity for mechanics and an interest for the anatomy of the animals that he used to catch when hunting. He recalls the first wedding, the corn plantation destroyed by hail, the apprenticeship with his father in the care of Native Americans, his participation in the civil war and his return to normal life as an allopathic physician.

II. The dreamer. The second chapter describes how Still doubted the official medicine and was not satisfied with a course that he had undertaken in a school of medicine in Kansas City. Page tells about the desperation following the death of his children to spinal meningitis and how he was ridiculed when expressing his unconventional ideas. He mentions the years of study, the human being seen as a machine, the support of the second wife, the study of the bones exhumed from the Native Americans’ graves and how they fascinated him. He highlights how A.T. Still had conceived a new philosophical theory and not only some manipulative techniques. Page remembers the importance of what Still defined as  “the ram of reason”, which would not hesitate to push him to the ground when he was wrong. The chapter closes with A.T. Still who, in the face of skepticism and accusations of having lost his mind, is forced to roll up his sleeves, to also become an inventor and an experimenter and to start all over again.

III. The experimenter. The third chapter describes the conventional medicine practice in the United States, which proceeded unaware of the research of Lister on antisepsis, of Pasteur on bacteriology, of Virchow on cells, of Bernard on circulation and nervous impulses. He tells how A.T. Still developed his theories and tested them on the field in solitude, and how he would perform the first treatments, and how new patients would arrive to him by word of mouth, and how his reflections would bring him to conceive the “rule of the artery” and the new science of osteopathy.

IV. The teacher. The fourth chapter narrates the encounter with Dr William Smith, The opening of the school in 1892 and the reaction of the medical class. He recalls the paternal ways of A.T. Still towards the students and his generosity when explaining his ideas to the public. Then he refers briefly to the spread of osteopathy and to the developments of medicine. He illustrates how, with age, The Old Doctor started to progressively move away from the school to focus on his autobiography and on writing altogether.

V. The philosopher. The fifth chapter, entitled the philosopher, depicts the doctor in his eighties engaged into his reflections on life and death, on God, which in his eye manifested into Nature and in the perfection of the human body, on the tendency of the body to self heal, on structure and function, on sickness as a consequence of a structural dysfunction and on the importance of blood to stay healthy.

VI. The tribute. The last chapter is the fictionalized moving account of the day in which in Kirksville the statue of The Old Doctor was unveiled, an event witnessed by  A.T. Still from the porch of his home according to the version of Leon Elwin Page.



Strengths: the work has a strong emotional connotation and infuses the essence of the old doctor with simplicity and clarity, its reading is highly recommended.

Weaknesses: with the exception of the foundation’s date of the ASO, the small volume is devoid of bibliographic references and quotations.

I. The pioneer
II. The dreamer
III. The experimenter
IV.The teacher
V. The philosopher
VI. The tribute


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