Andrew Taylor Still Biography


Birthday: August 6, 1828 (Leo)

Born In: Lee County

Andrew spent most of his childhood in the pro-slavery state of Missouri. However, just like his father, he was against slavery, and when civil war raged in various parts of America, he allied with the anti-slavery groups on both accounts. He was also nominated as the state legislator for Kansas. Having learnt the tricks of medicine from his father, the grim experiences during the war and the loss of his kids in the ensuing epidemic, led him to question the practices followed by physicians of that time. He set about determining more rational methods of treatment, which focussed on the disease rather than curing the symptoms. His pioneer work on how regulating the musculoskeletal system can help the body become more immune to diseases, led to the development of a new system in treatment, called ‘Osteopathy’. He faced severe criticism for his theories initially, but as he started curing more and more patients with his unconventional methods, his popularity soared, and many people became interested in learning his methods. Thus he conceived the idea of building a school for teaching and training people in osteopathy. His children were few among his first students at the ‘American School of Osteopathy’ located in Kirksville, Missouri. Taylor was the author of many books based on osteopathy, including his autobiography
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, A. T. Still

Died At Age: 89

American Men Male Physicians

Died on: December 12, 1917

place of death: Kirksville

Humanitarian Work: Served the people during the ‘American Civil War’

Childhood & Early Life
Andrew was the third child of Abram and Martha Still, and was born on August 6th, 1828. His parents had eight other children apart from Andrew. The family resided in Lee County, Virginia, where his father worked for a protestant church missionary, as a minister and physician. Still’s father was a supporter of the anti-slavery movement and he passed on the same values to his children.
After moving along with his family to Kansas, in 1853, Taylor willed to pursue medicine. As per the trend commonly followed during those days, Andrew taught himself medicine through various books and underwent apprenticeship under his father to put the knowledge thus earned to practice.
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When the state of Kansas was engulfed in a conflict between the people who supported slavery and those who didn’t, he actively participated in the battle along with his siblings. After the war ended, he was nominated as a state legislator for the Douglas and Johnson counties in 1857.
Even after the onset of Civil war in 1861, between the Union and Confederate forces, in America, Taylor continued serving the people in various roles such as that of a physician. While treating the wounded, he first noticed the short comings of traditional healing practices.
Still, who had seen his father’s patients suffering from epidemics like smallpox, cholera as a child, had developed an interest in medicine at an early age. Suffering a personal loss, when his three kids died of meningitis after the American Civil War, he pursued medicine full-time and decided to explore better methods of treatment.
Enrolling in the new ‘College of Physicians and Surgeons’, in 1870, he studied the conventional practices followed in medicine. Later, he conducted research on various alternative treatments, like magnetic healing and bone setting, to develop a better method of treating the ill.
The local church renounced his theories that many of the diseases can be cured without drugs. He suffered opposition from all fronts including his family. His brothers even abandoned him and none of the medical schools were ready to listen to his ideas. However, Andrew continued his pursuit undeterred.
Leaving Kansas in 1874, he returned to the town of Macon where he grew up, in the hopes of finding a break-through. However, all his efforts turned futile, and he shifted to Kirksville, the next year.
It was in Kirksville that this physican tasted his first success. Gaining a reputation of being a ‘lightning bonesetter’, the number of his patients started increasing gradually. As time passed, his ideas of drugless treatments gained popularity, and people wanted to learn about this new method of treatment. Still’s unconventional methods of treatments were officially recognised in 1885 and his theories gave birth to modern day Osteopathy.
Initially imparting the knowledge, to his children and few others interested, he founded ‘The American School of Osteopathy’, in 1892. This initiative helped Still’s career as a physician gain momentum.
In 1895, the infirmary building in the school was inaugurated, and hundreds of patients came from far-away places for treatment. Such was the demand that the Wabash Railroad, which operated in central United States, had to increase the passenger train influx to Kirksville.
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His autobiographical work ‘’Autobiography of Andrew Taylor Still with a History of the Discovery and Development of the Science of Osteopathy’, was published in 1897. Eleven years later, a revised version was printed as the original templates were damaged in a fire accident.
His book on the ideas and theories of Osteopathy, titled ‘Philosophy of Osteopathy’, was printed in 1899. As a continuation to this work, he published a third book titled ‘The Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy’, three years later.
Taylor, who was constantly inquisitive, didn’t rest on his past laurels and pursued his fascination with machines. Some of his earlier inventions include an improvised design of butter churner and a mowing machine. Though he obtained a patent for the butter churn, his design for the harvest machine was allegedly copied by ‘Wood Mowing Machine Company’, before he could obtain a patent.
In 1910, while he was working on the design of a smokeless furnace burner, his second wife Mary Elvira’s death left him heart broken. Though he had obtained a patent for the design, he left the task of producing a working model half-way. The same year, ‘Osteopathy Research and Practice’, his fourth, and the last book in the Osteopathy series, was printed.
Major Works
In the late 1850s, the founding stone for ‘Baker University’ was laid out on the 640 acres of land, which Andrew and his brother had donated. Still was also involved in the construction work, overseeing the building of facilities.
Still is known for his pioneering work on osteopathy. His philosophy, of ‘preventive medicine’, laid the foundation for modern day medicine. He insisted on treating the diseases by regulating the musculoskeletal system rather than administering drugs.
Awards & Achievements
’The Hall of Famous Missourians’ inducted Andrew Taylor Still when the general public passed the mandate for him, in 2013. His bronze statue is installed in Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
Personal Life & Legacy
Still had three children from his first marriage, who died from a bout of spinal meningitis. He married Mary Elvira Turner, after the death of his first wife in childbirth; with whom he had a daughter. The girl child died of pneumonia, shortly after he lost his other kids, forcing him to question the medical practices and beliefs of those times.
Andrew retained his responsibilities in the ‘American School of Osteopathy’ till his final days. A stroke, he suffered in 1914, left him incapacitated. His health started degrading gradually and he breathed his last three years later. His disciples and colleagues, at the ASO, mourned ‘The Old Doctor’s’ death.
His students and colleagues at the ‘American School of Osteopathy’ nicknamed him the ‘Old Doctor’.

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