A.T Still: The Doctor

It was the custom in that day for country doctors to receive their professional training by "reading" medicine, as their legal brethren "read" law. And it was in such a manner the A.T. Still received his medical education. After serving an apprenticeship under is father, he became a licensed physician in the state of Missouri. Later, in the early 1860's he attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1849, at the age of twenty-one, Andrew married Mary M. Vaughn, and for several years he farmed and practiced traditional medicine in Macon County, Missouri. However, this was a period of unrest in Missouri. It was essentially pro-slavery, and as both Abraham and Andrew Still were strong abolitionists, they moved their families to the state of Kansas. The Reverend Abraham served as a missionary to the Shawnee Indians at the Wakarusa Mission, six miles east of Lawrence, Kansas. Andrew farmed and doctored the Indians and settlers. It was during these early days on the Kansas prairie that Andrew first began to search for new methods of treatment for the patients that he was unable to help.

During the years 1852-1853, Andrew Still was a scout surgeon under General John C. Fremont. He became close friends John Brown and Jim Lane, the anti-slavery leaders, and was active in the border warfare in Kansas. In 1857, at the age of twenty-nine, he was elected on the free-state ticket to represent Douglas County in the Kansas state legislature. His wife died in 1859, leaving him with three small children. He was married the following year to Mary E. Turner, who became his faithful and devoted companion for the next fifty years.

War was inevitable and A.T.Still was among the volunteers of the Ninth Kansas Cavalry. He served the Union Army as a surgeon during the Civil War and was discharged with the rank of Major. (His surgical kit is on display in the Smithsonian Institution). During the war, he was appalled by the number of patients who died, and he abhorred the numerous surgeries and amputations. He became concerned about the common procedures of bleeding, purging, vomiting and blistering. The scientific world of that time knew little about the drugs they used or about bacteria or antiseptics. Surgery was performed without anesthesia and in unsanitary conditions. While in the army, Dr. Still decided that when he returned to Kansas, he would study the human body and find a better way to treat disease.

When a epidemic of spinal meningitis spread through Kansas in 1864, Dr. Still watched helplessly as three of his own children died from the disease. He gave over to deep despair; he hated the drugs for their impotency. He found the existing medical theory totally inadequate and unacceptable. This personal loss almost caused him to abandon his career, but instead, he became more determined than ever to find the answers to health and disease. Another factor which undoubtedly influenced his search for health is the fact, recorded in his family history, that of the seven children born to him up to that time, all had now died except one, the oldest daughter. Three had died in the epidemic and three shortly after birth. Therefore, at a time when medicine was primarily a series of remedies that were more harmful than the disease, Andrew Taylor Still began his search for a new method of medicine.

Further reading: -

Origins of Osteopathy

A.T.Still: The Doctor

The Discovery of Osteopathy

Osteopathic Roots

The First Osteopathic School