John Lewis

I was born in Carmarthen, Wales. Our family owned a woollen business, Derw Mills, Pentrecwrt, manufacturing woven cloth, blankets and Welsh tapestry bedspreads. I was the eldest son, the fourth generation in the family business and, although I would really have preferred to study medicine, studied Textile Process Engineering at Leeds University and received a postgraduate diploma in Textile Design from the Scottish College of Textiles, Galashiels.

When the business went into liquidation in the mid-1980s I was forced to change tack. I had been competing in track and field athletics for Carmarthen Harriers and then Edinburgh Southern Harriers, and represented Wales in both long and triple jumps. In Edinburgh, when I suffered injuries, I received massage and other treatments from John Gladwin in Morningside. He sensed my interest in his work and encouraged me to take a course in massage from the Northern Institute of Massage, Blackpool.

Once qualified I worked as a masseur at Enton Hall, an old-fashioned ‘health farm’ in Surrey. There I met osteopath David Cook, who practised in nearby Godalming and came to treat the guests one day a week. I took a few treatments, experienced my first session of cranial osteopathy, and decided I wanted to become an osteopath myself.

I entered the British School of Osteopathy in 1991. During my first year I read Dr Still’s Autobiography and was struck both by the wisdom contained in his words and by the fact that what we were being taught differed so much from what he intended. In 1997, two years after graduating, I traveled to the United States to begin the research that eventually culminated, fifteen years later, in my book.


When  I arrived in Kirksville I was extremely fortunate to meet Dr James J. McGovern, who had just been appointed president of Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. McGovern took an interest in my project and, through his patronage, KCOM funded and supported my research from 1999 to 2002. Once employed by the college I was placed under the charge of the Still National Osteopathic Museum (now the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine) and given unlimited access to the archive collections.

My research into Still’s writings led to one insight after another, the most profound of which was that osteopathy is primarily – even before a system of manual medicine – a philosophy. This further led me to realize that osteopathy as currently taught is not only guided by a different philosophy but is also a pale shadow of what Still intended.

In writing my book I strove to bring out Still’s pure teachings, without compromise, and to show that when you understand those teachings you learn why they do not date, for osteopathy is another word for nature, and nature’s laws are unchanging. Why this is important for finding health is a long argument, one I have interwoven into Still’s story.

A. T. Still: From the Dry Bone to the Living Man is a biography of osteopathy’s founder. It explains how his science grew from a biological explanation for the origin of disease, based on the cutting edge medical science of the day, and how from it grew a system of treatment. The book is perfused by Still’s philosophy and written is a style that aims to inspire a revival of his teachings. Those teachings are timeless and they should form the basis of every osteopathic curriculum.