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D.D. Palmer

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Daniel David Palmer

Daniel David Palmer or D.D. Palmer (March 7, 1845 – October 20, 1913) was the founder of Chiropractic.


Palmer was born in Pickering, Ontario, near Toronto, Canada to Katherine McVay and Thomas Palmer.[1] At age twenty he moved to the United States with his family. Palmer held various jobs as a beekeeper, school teacher, and grocery store owner, and had an interest in the various health philosophies of his day, such as magnetic healing, and Spiritualism. Palmer practiced magnetic healing beginning in the mid-1880s in Burlington, Iowa, and Davenport, Iowa.

Palmer read medical journals of his time and followed developments throughout the world regarding anatomy and physiology. While working as a magnetic healer in Davenport, Iowa, he encountered a deaf janitor who he discovered had a palpable lump in his back. He theorized that the lump and his deafness were related. After a reported successful restoration of the man's hearing,[2] it led to the beginning of Chiropractic history. His theories revolved around the concept that altered nerve flow was the cause of all disease, and that misaligned spinal vertebrae had an effect on the nerve flow. He postulated that restoring these vertebra to their proper alignment would restore health.

Palmer founded a school based on his work that would become the Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1897. By 1902 the school had graduated 15 chiropractors. In 1906, Palmer was prosecuted under the new medical arts law in Iowa for practicing medicine without a license, and chose to go to jail instead of paying the fine. As a result, he spent 17 days in jail, but then elected to pay the fine. Shortly thereafter, he sold the school of chiropractic to his son, B. J. Palmer. With the help of an arbitration committee, the deal was settled for $2,196.79, various books, and some specimens from the osteological collection. As soon as the sale of the school was finalized, D.D. Palmer went to the West Coast, where he helped to found chiropractic schools in Oklahoma, California, and Oregon.

The relationship with his son BJ was tenuous and often bitter, especially after the sale of his school. Their subsequent disagreements regarding the direction of the emerging field of chiropractic were evident in D.D. Palmer's writings. Even the circumstances surrounding his death were postulated to be attributable to BJ. Court records reflect that during a founders day parade in Davenport in August 1913, DD was marching on foot and was allegedly struck from behind by a car driven by BJ. Others denied he was struck by BJ's vehicle. He died in Los Angeles, California on October 20, 1913. The official cause of death was typhoid fever, though some believe it was the consequence of his injuries. The courts exonerated BJ of any responsibility for his father's death.

Palmer's fundamental idea

D.D. Palmer's effort to find a single cause for all disease led him to say:

"A subluxated vertebra... is the cause of 95 percent of all diseases... The other five percent is caused by displaced joints other than those of the vertebral column."[2]

Palmer's mysticism

D.D. Palmer was a man with subjective and personal religious beliefs. As an active spiritist, he said he "received chiropractic from the other world"[3] from a deceased medical physician named Dr. Jim Atkinson.[4]

According to B. J. Palmer "Father often attended the annual Mississippi Valley Spiritualists Camp Meeting at Clinton, Iowa... That is where he first received messages from Dr. Jim Atkinson on the principles of chiropractic."[5] Such messages were normally received during seances, but Palmer claimed to have received them through "inspiration".[6]

In his book, The Chiropractor (published posthumously, 1914), Palmer described the situation:

"The knowledge and philosophy given me by Dr. Jim Atkinson, an intelligent spiritual being, together with explanations of phenomena, principles resolved from causes, effects, powers, laws and utility, appealed to my reason. The method by which I obtained an explanation of certain physical phenomena, from an intelligence in the spiritual world, is known in biblical language as inspiration. In a great measure The Chiropractor’s Adjuster was written under such spiritual promptings." (p. 5)"[6]

He regarded chiropractic as partly religious in nature. In a letter of May 4, 1911 he said:

"... we must have a religious head, one who is the founder, as did Christ, Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Jr., Mary Baker Eddy, Martin Luther and other who have founded religions. I am the fountain head. I am the founder of chiropractic in its science, in its art, in its philosophy and in its religious phase."[3]

In his 1914 book, the first chapter expanded on his religious views of chiropractic: "The Moral and Religious Duty of a Chiropractor".[6] In it he dealt with religious liberty and stated:

"... nor interfere with the religious duty of chiropractors, a privilege already conferred upon them. It now becomes us as chiropractors to assert our religious rights." (p. 1)
"The practice of chiropractic involves a moral obligation and a religious duty." (p. 2)

Later in the book he distanced himself from actually renaming the profession to the "religion of chiropractic" and discussed the differences between a formal, objective religion and a personal, subjective ethical religious belief. (p. 6) He reaffirmed that chiropractors have a religious and moral duty, and ended the first chapter by stating:

"By correcting these displacements of osseous tissue, the tension frame of the nervous system, I claim that I am rendering obedience, adoration and honor to the All-Wise Spiritual Intelligence, as well as a service to the segmented, individual portions thereof -- a duty I owe to both God and mankind. In accordance with this aim and end, the Constitution of the United States and the statutes personal of California confer upon me and all persons of chiropractic faith the inalienable right to practice our religion without restraint or interference." (p. 12)


Palmer met opposition and was accused of being a crank and a quack. An 1894 edition of the local paper, the Davenport Leader, wrote:

"A crank on magnetism has a crazy notion hat he can cure the sick and crippled with his magnetic hands. His victims are the weak-minded, ignorant and superstitious, those foolish people who have been sick for years and have become tired of the regular physician and want health by the short-cut method…he has certainly profited by the ignorance of his victims…His increase in business shows what can be done in Davenport, even by a quack."[7]


The following quotes are from D.D. Palmer's book, The Chiropractor's Adjuster (also called The Text-Book of the Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic). The book was published in 1910 by the Portland Printing House Company of Portland, Oregon, and reprinted in 1966 by his grandson, David D. Palmer, 1966.

  • Disease: “The kind of disease depends upon what nerves are too tense or too slack.”
  • Chiropractic for intellectual abnormalities: “Chiropractors correct abnormalities of the intellect as well as those of the body.”
  • Life and Religion: "I have answered the time-worn question — what is life?”: “The dualistic system — spirit and body — united by intellectual life — the soul — is the basis of this science of biology”
  • "There can be no healing without Teaching..."
  • "There is a vast difference between treating effects and adjusting the causes."


  • The Chiropractor's Adjuster (also called The Text-Book of the Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic)</cite>, Daniel David Palmer, Portland Printing House, 1910 (reprint: 1966).


  1. Ancestry of Daniel David Palmer
  2. 2.0 2.1 Palmer D.D., The Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic. Portland, Oregon: Portland Printing House Company, 1910.
  3. 3.0 3.1 D.D. Palmer's Religion of Chiropractic - Letter from D.D. Palmer to P.W. Johnson, D.C., May 4, 1911
  4. Keating J. Faulty Logic & Non-skeptical Arguments in Chiropractic
  5. L. Ted Frigard, DC, PhC, Still vs. Palmer: A Remembrance of the Famous Debate, Dynamic Chiropractic – January 27, 2003, Vol. 21, Issue 03
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 The Chiropractor
  7. Colquhoun, D (Jul 2008). "Doctor Who? Inappropriate use of titles by some alternative "medicine" practitioners". The New Zealand medical journal 121 (1278): 6–10. ISSN 0028-8446. PMID 18670469. 

External links

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