"Research" and "science" in the first half of the chiropractic century

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1995 Jul-Aug;18(6):357-78.


In the first 50 years of the chiropractic profession, a variety of unorthodox meanings for the terms "research," "science" and related words were in evidence. In harmony with popular conceptions of the day, science was constructed as a relatively static body of knowledge and was thought to reflect the will of God. Research was an ill-defined activity, and acquisition of new knowledge did not involve the experimental methodology that increasingly took hold in biology and medicine in the twentieth century. Chiropractors often viewed science and research as marketing strategies. Clinical data collection, when it occurred at all, was not described in sufficient detail to permit replication. Results were enthusiastically interpreted as indisputable proof of investigators' a priori assumptions about the effectiveness of chiropractic methods. A few in the profession recognized the general lack of understanding of the scientific method and sought reform from within. However, the colleges were unwilling to introduce coursework in research methods. At the end of World War II, the broad-scope national association of chiropractors in the United States established a nonprofit foundation for the purpose of raising funds for chiropractic research and education. Research plans were poorly conceived and grandiose: the first major initiative of the Chiropractic Research Foundation involved a nationwide publicity and fund-raising campaign modeled after the March of Dimes. When these efforts failed and the possibility of establishing free-standing research centers collapsed, the Foundation sought to shift responsibility for research to the schools. The poverty-stricken chiropractic colleges lacked the research sophistication for this task. Several more decades would pass before a sustained research effort and interest in clinical experimentation would become evident in chiropractic.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Portrait
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chiropractic / history*
  • Foundations / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Research / history
  • Research Support as Topic / history
  • Science / history
  • Societies, Medical / history
  • United States