Monthly Archives: January 2016

What We Know of D.D. Palmer has Quadrupled

What we know of D.D. Palmer has quadrupled. His life is no longer the mystery it once was although it has some mysterious qualities. In the last three years we have learned more about D.D. Palmer than in the last thirty.

One biography was written about him in 1981. I remember sitting in my chiropractor’s office in the early nineties. He had Old Dad Chiro on the shelf. It is wonderful little book.

Gielow included excerpts from Palmer’s journals and even the name and date on B.J. Palmer’s birth certificate.  He wrote just enough to get you started but it was written before computers, the internet, newspaper archive databases, and before the content and context of D.D. Palmer’s life was really understood.

When we add the recent discoveries to the fact that there are no current critiques of Palmer’s writings it becomes evident that we are in a new era of D.D. Palmer scholarship.

The D.D. Palmer Literature

The classic writings on D.D. Palmer are all worth studying. In the 1930s and 1940s Cooley wrote about his mentor. I published those a few years ago. Harper wrote his book Anything Can Cause Anything in the 1960s to update Palmer. I mentioned Gaucher-Pelsherbe’s work from 1980s and 1990s a few months ago. One of the most well-known writings on D.D. is the work of Keating but there is NO critical literature on his analyses of the evolution of D.D. Palmer’s ideas.

In recent years there have been some amazing articles on D.D. Palmer including Brown’s exploration of Dad Chiro and his raspberry bushes, Foley’s confirmation that D.D. Palmer did not teach phrenology in the 1880s, as well as some fascinating articles by Bovine on Palmer’s adjusting style and by Faulkner and Foley on Palmer’s books.*

But it is the most recent books on D.D. Palmer that now equal about 80% of what know of him!

The Rolf Peters’ Chiropractic History Revolution

The impact Rolf Peters has had on the chiropractic profession is impossible to estimate. Since 1957 when he graduated from Palmer Chiropractic College, Peters has been trailblazing new frontiers for the profession. As co-editors of the Chiropractic Journal of Australia for thirty years, Rolf and his wife Mary Ann Chance helped to shape the profession. Their history articles set the bar for a new generation of chiropractic historians.

Rolf’s ten years of research in the Palmer archives for his thesis at RMIT University was developed into a book in 2014. We should have called the book The Palmers from 1902-1945.

Rolf E. Peters, DC, MCSc, FACC, FPAC, FICC

Rolf’s history of the life and times of D.D. Palmer and B.J. Palmer during the time period of chiropractic’s emergence is interwoven with the larger story. The book is the most detailed history of the Palmer school ever written. It includes facts about the early history of chiropractic published nowhere else.

Reviews of Rolf’s book were just published in two different journals! The Journal of Chiropractic Humanities published a review by Glenda Wiese in December. The journal Chiropractic History published a review by Joe Foley in the Winter 2016 issue.*

The Waters’ Quartet

Todd Waters compiled four books spanning D.D. Palmer’s life in the United States from 1869-1913. In the first book, Waters found D.D.’s articles from the American Bee Journal in the 1870s when Palmer was mastering his craft as a bee keeper. The second and third books track D.D.’s life and his various careers from 1882-1888, which include some interesting and strange events.

My favorite one of the books is Chasing D.D. It traces Palmer’s time from just before he invented chiropractic until his death in 1913. It is filled with stories and writings that people already know but with text of original ads and newspaper clippings that are priceless. It debunks several myths.

The Real D.D. Palmer

I am developing my talk for the Berkshire Philosophy Event in April. The event is sold out. Please be sure to register EARLY for 2017. It is one the premiere events in the profession. My talk will integrate many of the latest ideas we know about Palmer.

I just completed my notes for the event, which include about fifty pages of text. Because of all of this new material I was able to go beyond my previous writings on The Secret History and D.D.’s Traveling Library. It also includes my own historical discoveries and a few that have not yet been published by other historians. I’ll share more on those another day.

*Reprinted with permission from the Association for the History of Chiropractic.


Speranskian Subluxation Theory

I published a paper last month on chiropractic and systems science. Please read it when you get chance. During my research I was amazed by the impact A.D. Speransky had on subluxation theory.

I coined the term Speranskian Subluxation Theory to capture a class of thinking about subluxation.

A.D. Speransky

A.D. Speransky wrote A Basis for the Theory of Medicine in 1936. As the head of The Institute of General and Experimental Pathology at the All Union Institute of Experimental Medicine in Leningrad Speransky had a huge impact on Russian physiology and chiropractic.

A.D. Speransky

A.D. Speransky

Speransky’s concept “neurodystrophy” was developed based on years of empirical research with animal subjects. His hypothesis was elevated to theory. His theory was congruent with the chiropractic paradigm.

The Palmer School’s Early Integration of Speranksy

An article by O. Hamilton Wright was published in the The Chiropractor in 1937. It was the first mention of Speransky’s book in the chiropractic literature. The Chiropractor was a publication of the Palmer School of Chiropractic from 1904-1961. Hamilton wrote several articles in the late 1930s on everything from NCM to philosophy.

Hamilton’s pioneering article called “Take Your Choice” examined some of the scientific literature that supported the Life principle. He also described some of B.J. Palmer’s research in the clinic. Toward the end of the article he mentioned Speransky’s observation that the nervous system played an integrative role in disease processes.

In another article called “Unfinished Business” published in 1938, Wright wrote that Speransky’s book “substantiated the Chiropractic principle.” This was the real start of Speranskian Subluxation Theory.

In 1938, B.J. Palmer mentioned Speransky in Vol. 20, which was a text about his research in the clinic. He wrote that Speransky and Crile proved the following statement,

“Any agency, and by this is meant whether given, taken, or received internally, or taken or received externally, regardless of whether a chemical, manual, or physical means, whether a material substance or an abstract, which seemingly modifies, amends, abridges, or changes function, does so not because it actually changes function direct, but that it modifies, amends, abridges, or changes quantity energy flow by blocking either efferent or afferent sides of the cycle behind functional activity and thus indirectly affects function.”

Palmer thoroughly integrated Speransky’s work in Vol. 25 with about 200 pages of quotes from A Basis for the Theory of Medicine. (I have written about Palmer’s integration of Crile’s theories elsewhere.)

Bernard Lubka wrote the first chiropractic review of Speransky’s book. The review was published in The Chiropractor in 1939. Lubka suggested that chiropractic was the logical missing link in Speransky’s research. Several other chiropractors from R.J. Watkins to Clarence Weiant reviewed the book and later integrated it into chiropractic subluxation theory.

Speranskian Subluxation Theory

J.R. Verner was one of the leading chiropractic theorists from the last century. He first wrote about Speransky in 1939. After the publication of his influential book The Science and Logic of Chiropractic in 1941 the profession soon adopted Speranskian research to support and expand subluxation theory.

Verner wrote, “With Speransky, the chiropractor holds that an intact nervous system is a sine qua non to health, and infection is no exception. The basic principle of chiropractic is that structural faults may interfere with normal nerve function…Chiropractic restores normal innervation.” This leads to conditions of health.

The incredible impact of Speransky on the chiropractic paradigm was pervasive. In the 1950s and 1960s subluxation theorists from several schools adopted Speransky. The consensus was that the chiropractic adjustment dissociates or disrupts the neurodystrophy or the neuro-pathic-syndrome or the neuropathy (as it was described in Segmental Neuropathy).

The Future of Speranskian Subluxation Theory

In the 1970s and 1980s, Speransky and the chiropractic references integrating his ideas were commonly cited in the literature. And yet, in the last two decades such references were cited less and less. This may have been related to some incorrect descriptions of the term neurodystrophy. For example, in Janse’s 1975 address at the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health, he described it in terms of trophic disturbances rather than a systemic neurological syndrome. It may have also been due to a shift in the profession away from subluxation’s influence on somatic and visceral pathophsyiology. That shift was described by Masarsky in his book Somatovisercal Aspects of Chiropractic.

It is time we reintegrate Speranskian Subluxation Theory into the chiropractic discourse. Every student and every chiropractor might learn a great deal from studying Palmer, Verner, Weiant, Watkins, Homewood, Harper, and the many others who described similar ideas.

Speranskian Subluxation Theory is not a new subluxation theory but a class of theories. It brings together all of the approaches throughout chiropractic’s history from EVERY SCHOOL. They viewed the subluxation as a disruptive process in the nervous system. It was viewed as a patho-genic process that led to adverse neurological consequences. The chiropractic adjustment was viewed as one way to disrupt this pathophysiological cascade and restore the neurological integrity.

This type of common ground is one way for the profession to join together and forge ahead.