Reconstructing the historical-scientific process, Dr. Still after serving his country as a major in the American Civil War in the spring of 1864, returned to civil life and medicine only to be confronted by tragedy which he described as the new enemy called spinal meningitis which led to the death of his three children. It was at this time that he began to question the medicine of his time and sought an alternative system of treatment, without drugs. Still was the first one of his time to make a remarkable discovery, affirming and defending the conscious contact of the hand on the patient was much more beneficial than the use of drugs and some surgeries. But there were obstacles. He was disowned and dishonored by his family and colleagues and he became an itinerant healer, only to be distinguished as a quack that invaded fairs. In spite of his humble origins, the new healer was successful and settled in the city of Kirksville (Missouri State), where he presented the Osteopathy to the world in 1874 and founded the first school of osteopathy in 1892. Lasting up to today, with the current name of Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.
John Martin Littlejohn belonged to the past half of the nineteenth century, during which period he graduated from Scottish Universities in arts and languages. Native of Glasgow, living in Northern Ireland, faced with a humid climate inadequate to his poor health, was advised to seek a warmer and drier climate abroad.
So he left to America for only six months to live according to professional opinion. However he began to teach soon after arrival, continuing for a period of two years, until his health broke down. Luckily, the fame of Still attracted patients to Kirksville, where he recovered to become a lecturer, co-founder and student of osteopathy.
Still, the discoverer only saw a part of the truth in the discovery. Littlejohn, on the other hand, looking behind the physical skeleton, was faced with the invisible function that is inherent in physiology. Littlejohn spent over ten years in Chicago studying the fundamentals of life and movement in living organism, under which he laid the foundations of our technique and practice.
It was Littlejohn who observed the physiological domain in the function verse structure equation, and the importance of inhibition and stimulation in the nervous and sympathetic interaction. He also emphasized the role played by the vasomotion in the control of blood circulation. But perhaps his most important contribution to our principles is the statement that “You cannot adjust the abnormal to normal.”
This was followed by an intention to integrate the body so that the “Body Adjustment” became a clinical need. In 1900 he founded “The Littlejohn College of Osteopathy and Hospital” in Chicago, where he taught and exerted until 1913; when he returned to London he founded the British School of Osteopathy in 1917. Between the two world wars, he was the central figure in osteopathic education and practice in the UK until his death, December 8, 1947.
In 1907 at the launch of his book The Principles of Osteopathy, he exposes the preparation of a scheme of his own in which correlates the Physiological Centers with the Osteopathic Centers. This complex scheme lasts until the present day, being the fundamental basis in the exercise of our clinical practice. We cannot fail to point out this simple but deep observation so often mentioned in his vast literature: “The underlying principle applied to Osteopathy is expressed in the word ADJUSTMENT”.