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.
Continue Reading Below
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.
Continue Reading Below
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.
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.