John Harvey Kellogg was an American doctor, health activist, inventor and businessman best known as the co-inventor of breakfast cereal corn flakes. Born and raised in Tyrone, Michigan, John wanted to become a teacher as a teenager. At the age of 16, he began teaching at a district school in Hastings, Michigan. He later enrolled into a teacher’s training course and studied medicine on the insistence of his parents, at New Jersey. He later received an M.D. from Bellevue Hospital Medical College located in New York City. Kellogg was raised in a highly religious family and was himself a Seventh - day Adventist, a Protestant Christian denomination. He served as the chief medical officer at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, operated by the Adventist Church. He made it a mission to explore and preach about the harmony between science and the Bible. He propagated vegetarianism, abstinence from alcohol and sex. He invented several vegetarian food items and is best known as the inventor of the breakfast cereal corn flakes. He made it as a light breakfast that is easy to chew and digest. He is also credited with inventing peanut butter. He was a staunch supporter of the ‘Biologic Living’ and put forth several other theories to promote healthy food habits.
Childhood & Early Life
John Harvey Kellogg was born on February 26, 1852, in Tyrone, Michigan, to John Preston Kellogg and Ann Janette Stanley. Originally from Massachusetts, John Preston settled in Michigan in 1834. Ann was his second wife, who birthed John Harvey and his younger brother Will.(1) John Preston had six children from his first marriage and (11 from his second marriage). Hence, John Harvey grew up with 16 in the household.
John Preston was a religious man and he associated himself with many revivalist faiths- such as the Baptists and the Congregationalist Church. Ultimately, he joined the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. John Preston later moved to Battle Creek and established a broom making factory.
He believed that the second coming of Jesus Christ was due, and hence, it was worthless to let his children have any formal education. However, John Harvey somehow managed to attend a few local schools in Battle Creek and got some formal educationLater he went on working with his father in his broom factory, like many of his siblings.
John was also a very sickly child, which somehow inspired him to work in the health industry later in his life. Devoid of formal education, he became voracious reader and was mostly self-taught.
Upon growing up, John aspired to become a teacher and he began teaching at a local school in Hastings, Michigan, at the age of 16. At the age of 20, he enrolled into a teacher’s training program at the Michigan State Normal School. He was however convinced by his parents to enrol into a medical school in New Jersey.
He later earned an M.D. from New York. His early life was also heavily influenced by his family friends James Springer White and Ellen G. White.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Just as he came out of the medical school, he began working as the chief physician at the Western Health Reform Institute of Battle Creek. It was founded by Ellen G. White, who was a Seventh Day Adventist leader. The institute promoted a healthy diet and overall lifestyle.
It was later renamed as Battle Creek Sanitarium by John. The patients who entered the place were only given diets consisted of fruits, nuts, grains and legumes. John, as a doctor, proposed many theories that were controversial for its time, but turned out to be largely accurate and widely accepted in the modern times.
John propagated his own theory that almost all illnesses have their origins in the gut and that intestinal health is the key to keeping the body healthy. He advocated the use of yogurt enemas everyday in order to perform a thorough cleanse of the bowels and the guts.
He further added that it’s either stomach, or the sexual intercourse that causes diseases. Hence, he advised his patients to exercise sexual abstinence for as long as they could. He also developed a few of his own theories that were controversial in nature.
To promote the sexual well being, he devised a method, in which the patients were seated in a vibrating chair and carbolic acid was applied to the clitoris to refrain women from unhealthy masturbation. He campaigned against masturbation and said that it could cause severe damage to human body.
He also said that coffee was bad for the liver. It promotes indigestion which he claimed was the biggest cause of most deaths in America. He also deemed intercourse to be an immoral act that was harmful for health. He famously said that him and his wife never had sex.
One among his most controversial belief was that ‘racial segregation’ was a necessary tool for the preservation of the human race.
He did not advocate the use of medicine to treat medical conditions and claimed that any illness can be treated by the right nutrition. He had a separate kitchen at the senitarium where he invented many recipes. His patients received a strictly vegetarian diet and yogurt.
He further slammed the wide use of alcohol and tobacco and advocated the use of daily exercise.
Sanitarium’s dietary program became extremely popular in the state and the country, to some extent. John’s younger brother Will also worked there and both the brothers experimented with grain quite a lot. One day, they accidentally overcooked wheat and after they put it through the rollers, it became flaky and delicious. This led to the creation of corn flakes, the breakfast cereal food item that became famous worldwide.
They tested the popularity of the corn flakes and when they hit the right strings with the patients, the brothers decided to make flakes and sell them. They co-founded a company to make and sell corn flakes. But the brothers were not really close. John was the older brother and he treated his younger brother Will as merely an employee in the company.
Will left his brother and started his own corn flakes company, the Kellogg’s, which, to this day, is the leader among the corn flake manufacturers. Overtime, the Sanitarium business that John was running became slow and he eventually left it. He competed with his brother for boxed cereals but lost. The brother also ended up suing each other in the court and remained estranged all their lives.
John has written several books on diet and health, such as ‘Plain Facts for Old and Young’, ‘Light Therapeutics’ and ‘Tobbacoism or How Tobacco Kills’ etc.
Personal Life & Death
John Harvey Kellogg married Ella Ervilla Eaton in 1879. The couple maintained celibacy in accordance with the Christian faith and never had intercourse. As a result, they did not have any biological children of their own. The couple fostered about 42 children and legally adopted 7 of them.
While he was on his deathbed, he wrote an apology letter to his brother for wronging him and handed it over to his secretary. But his secretary threw away the letter and the brothers never reconciled.
John died on 3) December 14, 1943, in Battle Creek Michigan. He was 91 years old at the time of his death.