Blue Flower

Portrait photo of Doctor Andrew Taylor Still - founder of osteopathy

No summary on this subject can be complete without a mention of Dr Andrew Taylor Still 'discoverer'  of osteopathy, as he put it. Dr A T Still, an American medical doctor and surgeon, founded the first school of osteopathy in Missouri in 1892 - the American School of Osteopathy (ASO), now called the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.

From Virginia, he served as an army doctor on both sides of the American Civil War. Following the tragic loss of his wife and three children from meningitis he became disillusioned with the orthodox medicine of the day, known as  heroic medicine  with good reason. Inspired by the philosophies of the native Americans and principles of Ayurveda (that he learned from two Swamis he met), he founded osteopathy in 1872. Western influences are thought to have been from the medieval art of bone setting still practiced in some remote areas of the UK.

Photo of Dr Still examining a femur

Ayurveda (science of life), originally from the ancient Indian Veda (some of the earliest known Sanskrit texts approx. 5000 BC), is the oldest known philosophy and health system. It is an holistic approach and has beecome more popular in the west due to the works of Dr Deepak Chopra.

Amongst those who studied under A.T.Still were D.D.Palmer, William Garner Sutherland DO and Dr John Martin Littlejohn. Palmer went on to develop Chiropractics. Sutherland, after many years of study and experimentation developed Cranio-Sacral osteopathy. Like Still he did not accept any credit and insisted that the answers lay in nature and in the writings of A.T.Still. Dr Littlejohn, a British physiologist with many other accreditations, became the first professor of physiology at the ASO. He brought osteopathy home to the UK and  founded the first college osteopathy in Britain in 1917 - The British School of Osteopathy in London, where he taught until he passed away in 1947.

The First Class of Osteopathy


Photo of the first class of osteopathy

In America osteopathy was recognised and incorporated into mainstream medicine in the 1960s. As a result they have specialised medical colleges that osteopathy is taught alongside orthodox medicine. However, often by their own admission, this has meant that the osteopathy has been somewhat diluted to a degree in some areas.

D D Palmer

DD Palmer 1st chiropractor


DD Palmer 1st Chiropractor


Daniel David Palmer or D.D. Palmer (March 7, 1845 – October 20, 1913) was the first chiropractor and founded the first school of chiropractics in 1897 - the Palmer School of Chiropractic.

More about DD Palmer on Wikipedia

Dr John Martin Littlejohn


Photo of Dr John Martin Littlejohn father of osteopathy in the UK

John Martin Littlejohn a physiologist from Scotland, advised by his own doctor to move to 'sunnier climes' for his health, encountered Dr Still in America. Taken by Still's ideas, he studied under Still and joined the faculty at the first School of osteopathy teaching physiology, a relatively new discipline at the time.

Dr Littlejohn returned to the UK and founded the first osteopathic college the UK in 1917  with, of course physiology as part of the osteopathic curriculum. This was  the British School of Osteopathy (BSO) and  was the first osteopathic education institution outside the USA, and it still exists today, currently  located at 275 Borough High Street, Southwark, London.

British School of Osteopathy on Wikipedia

British School of Osteopathy official site

Dr Still & Dr Littlejohn

Dr Still and Dr Littlejhn together

Dr William Sutherland

Doctor William Garner Sutherland - first cranial osteopath

Dr William Garner Sutherland


Dr William Garner Sutherland (1873 – 1954) was an American physician, that also studied under Dr Still. He was to become a very important figure in the osteopathic profession as he pioneered cranial osteopathy (or cranio-sacral osteopathy). Sutherland was the first osteopath to conceptualize the cranial approach and systematically teach it. Based on the principle of a minute rythmic movement pattern that occurs throuought the entire body, but he original observed this between the bone plates of the skull, hence the 'cranial' name. He always acknowledged Andrew Taylor Still as the discoverer of all osteopathy including the cranial approach.


More on Sutherland & the devlopment of cranial osteopathy

Cranio-Sacral Therapy

A later development of cranial osteopathy is cranio-sacral therapy (CST). Developed in the 1970's by osteopath Dr John Upledger. Oddly enough Upledger claimed to have discovered the cranio-sacral mechanism himself, while assisting a colleague with a spinal surgery.  He couldn't have not known about Sutherlands work, but he may felt that this approach was too important and should be available for other health care professionals to practice and not just osteopaths. As such he came up with the name Cranio-Sacral Therapy as a distinction. Upledger has made a huge contribution to the cranial field with books, papers, courses, etc.

The General Osteopathic Council

It wasn't until 1993 that the osteopathic profession got state recognition by act of parliament. As part of the Osteopaths Act in all osteopaths were to be officially registered and regulated by a single governing body - The General Osteopathic Council (GOsC), which only really came into power in 2000.