Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Leader Resource 3: Dr. Kellogg

John Harvey Kellogg was born in 1852 in Michigan. He grew up in a devout Seventh-day Adventist family and believed strongly the Seventh-day Adventist teachings about healthy living.

He attended medical school and returned to Michigan to begin a long and stellar surgical practice. With new clients, Dr. Kellogg first addressed diet and exercise; surgery was a last resort. When surgery was necessary, though, he had an unparalleled survival rate. Dr. Kellogg at one time performed more than 200 surgeries without losing a patient, an unheard-of accomplishment in a time before antibiotics.

His interest in nutrition and preventive health led him to invent foods for his patients: shredded wheat products, meat substitutes (he was a committed vegetarian), granola, and—most famously—corn flakes. The Kellogg Company was founded by John Harvey Kellogg and his brother William in order to sell John Harvey's corn flakes. William secretly acquired a majority of the company's stock, put his name on the box, changed the advertising emphasis from health to taste, added sugar to the flakes, and made a fortune. John Harvey sued, disassociated from the company, and did not forgive his brother.

John Harvey Kellogg wrote prolifically and lived solely on the income from his writing. He never charged his patients, not even for the most advanced surgery of the day. Dr. Kellogg became very famous, and for many years ran the posh Battle Creek Sanitarium where the rich and famous went to stay for a week or two to "get the cure."

Dr. Kellogg also wished to support the health of the homeless, who frequently suffered malnutrition. The Seventh-day Adventist Church ran a restaurant in New York City, serving fresh, healthy, vegetarian food. Dr. Kellogg made coupons available to wealthier people to give to panhandlers instead of money. The coupons entitled the bearer to a free meal at the Seventh-day Adventist restaurant. Dr. Kellogg contended that good food would be of greater benefit to the poor than anything else.

Dr. Kellogg held unique beliefs which some considered very odd. He had his patients given enemas every day, and had one himself, too. He adopted fourteen children but never had any of his own because he believed all sex was unhealthy.

But Dr. Kellogg also held beliefs we consider valid today. He insisted that smoking caused lung cancer a full half-century before the connection was accepted by the medical community. He advocated regular exercise, pure water, and whole grains long before it was popular advice. He rubbed his hands and arms, and had his operating rooms treated with carbolic acid because he believed it prevented infection—which it did.

John Harvey Kellogg—surgeon, inventor, and philanthropist—lived a life of contradictions, but one that strongly expressed his commitment to purity and optimum health in according with his Seventh-day Adventist faith.