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John Harvey Kellogg

Photo courtesy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives.

Kellogg, John Harvey (1852–1943)

By James L. Hayward


James L. Hayward, Ph.D. (Washington State University), is a professor emeritus of biology at Andrews University where he taught for 30 years. He is widely published in literature dealing with ornithology, behavioral ecology, and paleontology, and has contributed numerous articles to Adventist publications. His book, The Creation-Evolution Controversy: An Annotated Bibliography (Scarecrow Press, 1998), won a Choice award from the American Library Association. He also edited Creation Reconsidered (Association of Adventist Forums, 2000).  

First Published: January 28, 2020

John Harvey Kellogg was a Seventh-day Adventist physician, health promoter, nutritionist, inventor, author, eugenicist, and entrepreneur. He was director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, inventor of flaked breakfast cereal, and a long-time associate of James and Ellen White, founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. After years of struggles with denominational leadership over management style, philosophy, and doctrine, Kellogg was disfellowshipped in 1907, but he continued to maintain Adventist friendships and many features of an Adventist lifestyle until his death in 1943.

Family Background and Birth

In 1834, John Harvey Kellogg’s parents, John Preston Kellogg and Mary Ann (Call) Kellogg, with their two small sons, migrated west from Hadley, Massachusetts, home of Kellogg ancestors for some two hundred years. The young family settled on a farm just outside the small town of Flint, Michigan, where they homesteaded three hundred and twenty acres of land.1

Mary Ann Kellog developed tuberculosis in 1837. During the last months of her life, a doctor from Flint prescribed periodic “bleeding” and the fumes of camphor and iodine resin deposited on live coals held close to her nose. Not surprisingly, the treatments were ineffective and she died in September 1841, just shy of her thirtieth birthday.2

As she lay dying, Mary Ann Kellogg had implored her husband to hire a teenaged school teacher, Ann Janette Stanley, to care for the household and their five children. Stanley, however, was unable to join the Kelloggs at that point in time due to teaching responsibilities in a neighboring community. Instead, John Preston Kellogg hired sixteen-year-old Miss Trickey to tend to the chores; however, toward the end of the winter Miss Trickey began neglecting her duties and eventually moved out. It was then that Preston convinced Ann Janette Stanley, now free of her teaching responsibilities, to join his family. John Preston Kellogg and Ann Janette Stanley were married in March 1842. He was thirty-five and she was eighteen. Nine months later they moved to a farm in Tyrone Township.3

Perhaps due in part to the family’s negative experiences with traditional physicians–including an inability to prevent the death of Ann Janette Kellogg’s third child–the Kelloggs began subscribing to the Water Cure-Journal and Herald of Health Reforms.4 The journal was edited by Joel Shew, MD, a prominent practitioner of hydropathy in New York State.5 Hydropathy involved various forms of “water cures,” including application of water packs, showers, baths, fomentations, and poultices. Ann Janette Kellogg became an enthusiastic proponent of hydropathy (later more commonly called “hydrotherapy”) and other natural remedies.6

The Kelloggs were deeply religious. Soon after arriving in Michigan, John Preston Kellogg had been baptized in the Flint River by an itinerant Baptist preacher. Following their move to Tyrone Township, the Kelloggs joined the Hartland Center Congregational Church where John Preston Kellogg became an elder. By 1848, however, he became dissatisfied with the church’s religious practice and severed ties with the Congregationalists.7

A former member of the Whig party and a strong supporter of temperance, John Preston Kellogg, had been troubled by United State presidential candidate William Henry Harrison’s so-called “Log cabins and hard cider” campaign before the 1840 election. Consequently, John Preston Kellogg voted for the Liberty Party which supported abolition, a cause also championed by the Kelloggs. Following their move to Tyrone, the Kelloggs became involved in the Michigan “Underground Railroad” and helped pass several fugitive slaves to the border with Canada.8

In August 1852, John Preston Kellogg became convinced about the near Second Advent of Jesus and the Christian obligation to keep holy the seventh-day Sabbath as a result of attending a series of meetings in Jackson, Michigan, conducted by Joseph Bates. Soon thereafter, the Kelloggs sold their farm in Tyrone and moved to Jackson where John Preston set up a broom factory and made generous financial contributions to the fledgling Adventist movement.9

On February 26, 1852, a few months before the move to Jackson, John Harvey Kellogg was born, the fifth of John Preston and Ann Janette Kellogg’s eventual eleven children in addition. to the five children from John Preston Kellogg’s previous marriage to Mary Ann.10

In 1854, a group of four believers in Michigan, including John Preston Kellogg, advanced funds that enabled James and Ellen White to transfer the Review and Herald publishing office from Rochester, New York, to Battle Creek, Michigan.11 Soon the Kellogg family also moved to Battle Creek, where John Preston Kellogg set up his broom factory at the center of the growing Adventist work in 1856.


As a child, John Harvey Kellogg was sickly and small for his age. He suffered repeated bouts of tuberculosis and a variety of gastrointestinal disorders including constipation, hemorrhoids, colitis, and an anal fissure, problems that may have led to his later preoccupation with the digestive system (see below). Indeed, his parents thought he would never make it to adulthood. In 1881, when John Preston Kellogg was dying, he told his son “John, if I had supposed you were going to amount to so much, I should certainly have taken more pains with you.”12 By then his son had graduated from one of the nation’s leading medical schools and was director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

John Harvey Kellogg learned to play the piano, organ, and violin. His parents, however, believed in the imminent return of Jesus, so they thought it would be a waste of time for him to attend grammar school. He was taught at home to read and write. As time passed without the return of Jesus, however, they allowed Kellogg to begin school when he was nine or ten. He quickly caught up with his peers and thrived as a student. History, chemistry, botany, astronomy, algebra, and geometry piqued his interest. He especially enjoyed reading the works of Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Joseph Addison, David Hume, Samuel Johnson, and Benjamin Franklin. Words intrigued him his entire life–he loved dictionaries. He often carried a pocket dictionary with him, which during spare moments he enjoyed reading as if it were a novel.13

Considering that one day he would become a famous surgeon, it is ironic that young Kellogg hated the sight of blood. When his mother inquired about what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, “Anything except a doctor.” He also made up his mind never to do a job involving repetitious movements, but decided to strive for “hard jobs that were worthwhile.” One day as he passed his mother’s room, he heard his mother praying for him so he knelt beside her. She placed her hand on his head and prayed that he would dedicate his life to God in service to others. In later years he remembered this tender moment as a particularly formative event in his life.14

Early Working Life

When Kellogg was ten or eleven years old, his father decided it was time for him to make his own way. The boy responded by proposing to pay for his room and board if his father would pay him for his work. John Preston Kellogg agreed and John Harvey Kellogg was hired to sort broomcorn in the broom shop ten hours each day. The boy performed his work well and his father paid him the same wage he paid other workers. He appreciated John Harvey Kellogg’s work so much that he renamed the business “John P. Kellogg and Son.” Leaning over the workbench, however, made John Harvey round-shouldered, a problem he solved by sleeping on the hard floor. This experience may have influenced his later interest in the importance of posture.15

After Kellogg had worked for about a year in his father’s business, James White, impressed by the boy’s keen intellect and ambition, hired him as a printer’s apprentice at the Review and Herald Publishing Association. For the next four years, Kellogg ran errands, proofread, and set type for the book How to Live and the magazine The Health Reformer. He frequently ate and stayed overnight with the Whites. During this time, he gave up flesh food, thinking it might help him add height to his diminutive frame. He also served as a secretary for leaders of the fledgling church and sometimes traveled with the Whites. At one point, James White told Kellogg that Ellen White had seen in vision that young Kellogg was to play an important role “in the Lord’s work.”16

Professional Education

Later in life, Kellogg recalled sitting on the back steps of his father’s broom factory when he was about twelve, contemplating his future. He envisioned “a winding road up a hill where stood a schoolhouse.” He saw “crowds of children coming along the road, ragged, dirty, unkempt, pitiful children, going toward the schoolhouse.” He viewed himself “standing in the doorway of the schoolhouse, beckoning the children to come in.” These reflections, he said, convinced him “that I had found my life work–to help children.” This pivotal experience made him decide to become a teacher. At age fifteen, he assembled children from the family and neighborhood, taught them geography, and, at sixteen years of age, accepted a teaching job in Hastings, Michigan.17

Kellogg had just turned twenty when he enrolled for the 1872 spring term at the Michigan State Normal College in Ypsilanti. He kept close track of his finances and discovered that he could survive quite well on six cents a day by eating fruits, nuts, vegetables, and graham bread. This focus on low-cost eating of “natural” foods would influence his habits and teachings for the rest of his life. He finished the term successfully, reportedly passing a test on methods of teaching algebra without taking the class.18

However, soon after the start of the fall term, Kellogg was summoned to Battle Creek by James White where the elder urged him to join three other young Adventists in attending Dr. Russell Trall’s Hygieo-Therapeutic College in Florence Heights, New Jersey. James and Ellen White were anxious to staff the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek they had established six years before. Earlier, Kellogg’s older half-brother, Merritt Kellogg, had earned his medical degree at Dr. Trall’s school. The school promoted the use of natural remedies including proper diet, water, fresh air, and proper exercise instead of drugs. Kellogg agreed to go, and after the short twenty-week course paid for by the Whites, He graduated with an MD from Dr. Trall’s institution in the spring of 1873.19

Medical training in the United States was rapidly improving, however, and the limited form of education offered by Dr. Trall was increasingly looked upon as inadequate. Consequently in 1873, James White encouraged John Harvey to continue his medical education at the University of Michigan. But after a year at Michigan, he decided to complete his medical training at Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York City, then the nation’s top medical school. The White’s loaned him $1000 for this purpose. Kellogg completed the prescribed program of study and graduated with his MD on February 25, 1875. He told his friend William C. (Willie) White, son of James and Ellen White, that he had received a real “sheepskin” (diploma), not the “bogus paper concerns like the hygeio-therapeutic document” earned at Dr. Trall’s establishment.20

After completing his medical degree, Kellogg continued to advanced his knowledge of medicine and medical procedures through special training. After graduation, for example, he spent approximately a month taking private lessons in “electro-therapeutics” from a New York practitioner. He remained a voracious reader of the medical literature, and by 1908 estimated he had spent $50,000 for private instruction from specialists. Starting in 1883, he made several trips to Europe where he learned to care for premature babies and patients with anemia, pulmonary disease, cancer, heart disease, and disorders of the throat, ears, and skin. He also learned about various forms of hydrotherapy, exercise therapy, and radium therapy. During one such trip in 1911, he learned how to use an electrocardiograph and purchased one of these recently developed devices for use in the United States.21

Leadership at Battle Creek Sanitarium

In the fall of 1876, the twenty-four-year-old Dr. John Harvey Kellogg reluctantly took over as medical director of the Western Health Reform Institute, which had been serving patients since 1866.22 Ellen White had urged formation of the institute after experiencing, in December 1865, the second of the two visions during the 1860s concerning health reform as essential to the Adventist faith. The institute was organized as a for-profit stock corporation. Though it was not formally governed by the denomination, it was owned by Adventist stockholders, with directors who were leading ministers and lay members of the church. The largest original stockholder was Kellogg’s father, John Preston Kellogg.

Although Kellogg initially believed his leadership responsibility would be a temporary one, within the first year he became deeply involved in building up the institution’s reputation and presiding over an increased patronage. During that year he unilaterally changed the institute’s name to the “Battle Creek Sanitarium.” The word “sanitarium” meant “a place where people learn to stay well.” He envisioned Battle Creek Sanitarium more as a “university of health” than as a hospital. He never relinquished the view of himself as an educator.23

Kellogg had taken over management of the Western Health Reform Institute only after extracting a promise from James White that he would be allowed to run the institute on his own terms. His own terms meant operating within the framework of what he called “rational medicine” and “hygio-therapy.” When he took over in 1876, the facility was in dire financial straits and it would take herculean efforts to turn things around. The institute housed twenty patients, only eight of whom were paying. The living conditions were hardly inviting. The food was bland, there was little entertainment, the doctors were impersonal, and the rooms were moldy and sparsely furnished. Worst of all, during periods of water scarcity, patients had to bathe in water previously used by other patients. One lady reportedly complained, “We are all being dipped in the same gravy.”24 Years later Kellogg recalled, “I was just a lad of 24…so great did the task before me seem that the only thing I can remember was a prayer I offered many times a day and for weeks following, ‘Help me Lord’…[I was determined] to justify the Whites’ confidence in me or die in [the] attempt.”25

More money, of course, was needed to rectify the situation, and it didn’t take long for Kellogg to request more from the governing board. The board members raised the funds to build a new facility which they boasted was designed “to wield a mighty influence in the world, and to be a powerful means of breaking down the old, pernicious autocracy of empirical practice and of encouraging sanitary reform.” The beautifully designed five-story structure, complete with an up-to-date heating and ventilation system, was opened to patients in the spring of 1878.26

However, Kellogg had even bigger plans. He requested an additional $50,000 to build a new wing to house treatment facilities and to provide plush rooms for patients. Board members balked at the request to incur further indebtedness and Ellen White expressed strong disapproval. In her view, Kellogg wanted to transform her simple health institute into a “grand hotel.”27 The empire-building doctor mollified the concerns of the board and the prophet by forming a stock company separate from the sanitarium. He promised that the Adventist Church would not be responsible for any debt incurred. With that promise, the project moved forward, although the stock company scheme failed to raise sufficient funds. Once again, money had to be borrowed to complete the new wing that opened in 1884.28

Kellogg was still dissatisfied. In addition to the main Sanitarium he now wanted to build a charity wing. Once again, the Sanitarium board balked at his proposal, but he convinced the board to sell him several acres of Sanitarium-owned property where the charity hospital would be his private undertaking. This project appealed to Ellen White’s humanitarian sentiments, and with her support the Sanitarium board reversed its opposition, completed the building, and agreed to operate the new facility.29

In 1890 yet another wing to the Sanitarium was built and other facilities were added. By 1900 recreational facilities were acquired at nearby Goguac Lake, and several farms containing some four hundred acres were purchased which provided the Sanitarium with an ample source of milk, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. A canning plant was built in 1896 to preserve the farm produce. Kellogg’s biographer noted that “during its peak summer season [at the beginning of the twentieth century] the Sanitarium cared for seven hundred patients and employed nearly one thousand ‘helpers.’” Within about twenty years, Kellogg’s foresight, scheming, and force of will had transformed the once tiny health institute into a major facility that dominated the town of Battle Creek.30

The Western Health Reform Institute’s charter from the state of Michigan, received in 1867, was granted for thirty years, the maximum allowed by the law at the time. This meant the charter for Battle Creek Sanitarium expired in 1897. Kellogg spent considerable time over several years preparing for this eventuality. As the result of some clever maneuvering on his part, the sanitarium was transferred to a new organization, the Michigan Sanitarium and Benevolent Association, which once again was run by Seventh-day Adventist members directed by Kellogg. However, the new members were required to sign a declaration of principles which stated that the sanitarium was to be an “undenominational, unsectarian, humanitarian, and philanthropic” institution. This move ensured the sanitarium would not come under the control of church leaders, something the doctor found untenable.31

On February 18, 1902, an early morning fire started in the sanitarium pharmacy and swept through campus completely destroying the main building, the charity hospital, and some of the smaller buildings. One man was killed when he ran back into a burning structure to retrieve his life savings. Kellogg, who was on his way back to Battle Creek from the west coast when he learned of the disaster from a reporter, spent the rest of the trip drawing up plans for a new facility.32

Reconstruction progressed rapidly. A cornerstone was laid on May 12, 1902, amidst great fanfare, and the grand opening of the completed facility occurred on May 31, 1903. People from all over the world streamed in to Battle Creek for the occasion on special “excursion trains.” The platform for speakers at the building entrance was “festooned and ablaze with flags and bunting.” In addition to speeches from the usual dignitaries, there were tours of the facility, a march to the music of John Philip Sousa and W. C. Hardy, and a keynote address by Kellogg. Ample police protection ensured safety.33

Despite the pomp and circumstance, finding money to pay for the new facility proved to be a major hurdle, especially since the sanitarium already had been facing significant debt before the fire. Moreover, the structures that burned had been insured for less than half their estimated value. Pledges for contributions came in from prominent city residents, and the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference executive committee made a significant contribution. But many of the pledges were never paid and the new building cost far more than expected.34

At the time of the fire, Kellogg was in the process of publishing a new book, The Living Temple. He suggested that all Adventists be encouraged to sell copies to the public, with all profits and royalties from its sale used for rebuilding the sanitarium. Church leaders accepted Kellogg’s proposal, but only under the condition that none of the doctor’s divergent theological views (see below) be included in the writing. However, the plan never materialized because, when the book appeared, church leaders, including Ellen White, found what they interpreted to be pantheistic heresies in the text. In the end, most of the rebuilding, which ultimately cost more than a million dollars, was financed by Kellogg’s lecture, medical, and surgical fees, book royalties, the sanitarium food business, former patients, and the Battle Creek community.35

The Battle Creek Sanitarium flourished during the first part of the twentieth century and enjoyed a worldwide reputation as a result of Kellogg’s charisma and promotional genius. The rich and famous from many walks of life benefited from rest, relaxation, and treatment at “the San.” Guests included such notables as Booker T. Washington, William Howard Taft, Henry Ford, Luther Burbank, Gifford Pinchot, Warren G. Harding, Amelia Earhart, John D. Rockefeller, Roald Amundsen, Upton Sinclair, J. C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, S. S. Kresge, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lowell Thomas.36

A fifteen-story “Towers” addition, complete with a luxurious lobby and dining room, was opened at the south end of the sanitarium in 1928. But, the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing depression pushed the institution into a financial tailspin. Kellogg, now in his late seventies, had lost much of his control over the institution, and the new addition had been built against his wishes. He was now turning more of his attention to the formation of a Miami-Battle Creek Sanitarium in Miami Springs, Florida, a one-hundred-bed facility that opened on December 1, 1930. In 1932, the independent doctor confided to his old friend Percy T. Magan, “I confess it is a pleasure once more to be in a place where I can get everything done as I wish to have it done and when I wish to have it done.”37

Meanwhile, gripped by the Great Depression, the sanitarium in Battle Creek faced a drastically reduced clientele and, in February 1933, was forced into receivership by the Federal District Court. Dr. Charles Stewart, titular head of the Sanitarium over the past several years, was named receiver. The facility struggled to survive for the next five years. In 1938, the receivership was terminated and a new board of ten directors was appointed, one of whom was Kellogg. The other board members, however, agreed that Kellogg should not regain his former dominant influence. The restriction of power angered Kellogg and he tried to maneuver a takeover, but his efforts failed. In 1942, the sanitarium building was sold to the United States government for $2.25 million. It became the Percy Jones Hospital where soldiers injured during World War II and the Korean conflict were treated. In 1954, it was converted into a federal office building.38

Funds from the sale of the sanitarium’s property allowed payment of all its debts. Kellogg devised a plan to use his share of the funds, along with proceeds from the sale of a food company associated with the sanitarium, to form a new Battle Creek Sanitarium. He offered the sanitarium directors use of a nearby building, the old Phelps Sanatorium, which he now owned and which housed his Race Betterment Foundation (see below), for a new, albeit radically downsized, facility. The sanitarium directors agreed and elected the ninety-year-old Kellogg superintendent.39

Kellogg’s plan included a proposed merger of the sanitarium with his Race Betterment Foundation (see below). Two of his fellow directors opposed this plan, in part because it would concentrate power in the hands of only a few individuals, including Kellogg. The two dissidents appealed to Seventh-day Adventist General Conference leadership who had designs on reviving the sanitarium under church control. William H. Branson, vice president of the General Conference, encouraged Adventist constituents to attend the next constituency meeting held March 31 and April 1, 1943, by offering to pay the expenses of those opposed to Kellogg’s merger plan. Branson’s offer was made only after Will Keith Kellogg, Kellogg’s estranged brother and now a wealthy Battle Creek cereal magnate, offered to support the church’s interest with a $5,000 donation.40

Adventist constituents accepted Branson’s offer and attended the constituency meeting in large numbers. This had the intended effect of sinking the doctor’s plan. The constituency elected a new ten-person governing board which included Kellogg. Realizing the plans Adventist leadership had for the sanitarium, however, Kellogg refused to accept the new board even though he was one of its members. He protested that the Adventist Church was incapable of running a successful sanitarium, and neither was he under the thumb of Adventist authority. Eight and a half months later, before the court could resolve the issue, Kellogg died. A few days after his death, the court agreed on a compromise to the dispute between the Kellogg and denominational factions: A newly formed Michigan Sanitarium Corporation run by the Adventist Church received $550,000 in cash and three farms worth $75,000 to promote health in the state of Michigan. The Battle Creek Sanitarium, on the other hand, would be allowed to operate independently from the church out of a few buildings owned by Kellogg’s estate, which it continued to do until 1957.41

Physician and Health Reformer

John Harvey Kellogg’s work as a physician was rooted in a desire to help people lead healthier lives through what he called “biologic living.”42 From an early age he had been surrounded by people concerned about health. His early mentor and close family friend, Ellen G. White, experienced visions on the topic of health as early as 1848, and she related a particularly detailed vision on the subject in June 1863 when Kellogg was eleven years old.43 Knowledge of these visions, along with his reading of the works of other health reformers, played an important role in the development of Kellogg’s philosophy of health.44

An article by Kellogg published in 1875, written just before he earned his second medical degree, outlined a philosophy of health that guided his work as a physician and health educator his entire career:

     1. Obedience to the laws of life and health is a moral obligation.

     2. Mental, moral, and physical health can be maintained only by the observance of mental, moral, and physical laws.

     3. A healthy body is essential to perfect soundness of mind.

     4. Physical health promotes morality.

     5. Morality, likewise, promotes physical health.

     6. In the treatment of disease the simplest and safest remedies are the proper
         curative agents.

     7. Nature is the most efficient physician.

To achieve these objectives, he advocated abstinence from tea, coffee, chocolate, and alcoholic liquors; avoidance of tobacco; a simple, meatless diet; and proper dress.45 Throughout his life Kellogg promoted “natural” remedies, but his later medical school training taught him that many forms of standard medical practice were also useful to health improvement.46

Kellogg was a firm believer in hydrotherapy, the application of water to both the external and internal body.47 In the days before the introduction of intravenous fluids, Kellogg believed that patients should remain well-hydrated during and after surgery. Thus, unlike many of his colleagues, he had patients drink large quantities of water before surgery so they remained adequately hydrated during operations, and he gave water enemas to his patients immediately following the procedures.48 Moreover, sanitarium guests were subjected to single or multiple columns of water directed at the body (called “douches”), cold plunge baths, rocking baths, swimming baths, wet wraps, wet hand rubbing, and sponge baths. Several dozen types of douches and as many types of baths were administered. Other forms of treatments included various forms of exercise, vibrating chairs, vibrating belts, abdomen kneading, electric light baths, and oscillating electrical fields.49

Food and digestive processes were of special concern to Kellogg. He encouraged people to focus on eating whole grains, fruits, legumes, and other vegetables. Having become a vegetarian himself at the age of fourteen, he condemned meat-eating and the consumption of refined sugar, mustard, pepper, vinegar, cinnamon, ginger, and other condiments and spices. He also believed in limiting the amount of protein in the diet.50 Following the advice of fellow health reformer Horace Fletcher, he believed in chewing each bite of food at least forty times before swallowing. He posted a large sign in the sanitarium dining room that encouraged patients to “Fletcherize” each bite of their meals. To further encourage this practice, Kellogg or an associate led participants in singing a “Chewing Song” at the beginning of meals.51

Kellogg became obsessed with the topic of “autointoxication.” This now-discredited concept was developed by Elie Metchnikoff, a Russian chemist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Metchnikoff taught that poisons from undigested food in the intestines seeped into the body and caused illness.52 Kellogg believed this condition could be circumvented by having a bowel movement after every meal. He condemned the use of laxatives, but advocated frequent enemas for people suffering from constipation.53

Regular physical activity was a crucial ingredient of Kellogg’s recipe for health, and he prescribed it as part of almost every treatment plan.54 “Daily exercise is as necessary to maintain health and high efficiency of mind and body as are food, pure water, fresh air, sunshine, and sleep,” wrote the doctor.55 The new sanitarium building housed a gymnasium with equipment designed to enhance body movement, and it featured an elevated track for runners.56 Patients too ill to get outside or into the gym were encouraged to participate in daily exercise with the help of attendants in their rooms.57 Often, the doctor himself was seen riding his bicycle from home to work, dictating to his brother, Will Keith Kellogg, who dutifully ran alongside the cyclist.58 Kellogg became increasingly interested in the benefits of gymnastics and mechanical exercisers for people who found it difficult to get sufficient exercise outdoors.59

Dress and posture were two other reform issues that concerned the doctor. Kellogg was particularly opposed to the use of corsets and other forms of waist constriction by women. These undergarments constricted the body between the ribs and hips to produce an “hourglass figure.” Corsets displaced the internal organs and interfered with normal functions like breathing.60 In addition, Kellogg suggested that both women and men change their underclothes daily, wear open-weave fabrics to allow free-flow of air and light, and dress in outer attire that was white.61 He also believed that maintenance of correct posture was important to the proper functioning of the internal organs.62 To help his patients maintain good posture during dinners and lectures, he provided them with “Perfect Posture chairs” of his own design. The patented wooden chairs featured convexly curved backs that provided lumbar support.63

Upon completion of medical school, Kellogg had no interest in performing surgeries. During his first years as a physician, he hired outside doctors to treat patients requiring surgical procedures. He soon realized that with training he could do a better job than the doctors he hired. He learned surgical techniques by observing the work of well-known practitioners in Europe and England. He became dexterous with a scalpel and superb at sewing up incisions. Dr. Charles Mayo, a founder of the Mayo Clinic, believed he could look at a healed incision and identify it as the product of Kellogg’s skillful hands. “The scar is small and neat, just like a signature,” proclaimed Mayo. The famous gynecological surgeon Dr. Howard Kelly of the Johns Hopkins Hospital proclaimed that “John Harvey Kellogg [was] the most skillful surgeon [I] ever saw operate.” In 1914, Kellogg was inducted into the prestigious American College of Surgeons the year after it was founded. Before surgeries, Kellogg prayed with his surgical team, often before the patient was anesthetized. Praying before the procedure, he said, reduced his own apprehension. Patients later expressed their appreciation for this practice.64

Kellogg exhibited genuine compassion toward his patients. One biographer noted that “Kellogg took a deep interest in his patients and felt keenly his inability to see them all restored to perfect health. No matter how busy he was, he was able to make a patient feel that his case was the only matter of importance to the doctor at the time.” One time, for example, he dropped a piece of research to travel four hundred miles to bring a sick friend back to the sanitarium for care. He also paid for the man’s travel expenses and treatment.65 On Sabbaths, Kellogg spent much of his time visiting the sickest of his patients and tried to “cheer them up.”66 When workers at the sanitarium became sick or faced tragedy, he frequently hired someone to care for their household duties, and checked up on their well-being until the situation was resolved.67

Mission and Service Activities

During the last several decades of the nineteenth century, Kellogg initiated or became involved in the establishment of a variety of mission and service organizations designed to promote his views on biologic living and distribute aid to those in need. The first of these was the American Health and Temperance Association, created by Kellogg, Ellen and James White, and Elder G. I. Butler in 1878. Kellogg was installed as president. Membership was open to anyone, Adventist or not, who would sign a temperance pledge to avoid the use of alcoholic beverages. Members could also sign more restrictive pledges to avoid the use of tobacco, tea, coffee, other stimulants, and narcotics. A decade following its formation, membership in the association had reached twenty thousand.68

Kellogg’s interest in education led to the establishment of a School of Hygiene at Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1878. The school prepared workers to become health lecturers, temperance workers, hygienic cooks, practical nurses, and other health-related professionals. In 1889, the School of Hygiene was renamed the Sanitarium Training School for Medical Missionaries (also called the Health and Temperance Missionary School). Kellogg also organized the Sanitarium Nursing School, which opened in 1883 and enrolled only students willing to work at Battle Creek Sanitarium or a similar institution for five years following graduation.69

In 1893, the American Health and Temperance Association merged with the newly formed Seventh-day Adventist Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association (MMBA), also led by Kellogg. The MMBA helped to establish treatment rooms, vegetarian restaurants, urban medical missions, and more than thirty sanitariums located in the United States, Mexico, Denmark, England, Germany, Switzerland, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Funding for the work of the MMBA was provided in part by sale of Kellogg’s health foods, surgical fees, and personal funds.70

About the same time that the MMBA was formed, Kellogg developed a plan for Adventist churches to form “Christian Help Bands” consisting of a leader, a gospel worker, a missionary nurse, and less specialized helpers to serve needy and disadvantaged people in their local communities. Kellogg received encouragement for this project from the General Conference president, O. A. Olsen, although Kellogg believed that Adventist pastors balked at the project. The bands disappeared from Adventist congregations during Kellogg’s disputes with Adventist leaders during the early twentieth century.71

With funds from wealthy donors and in response to his concern for destitute residents of Chicago, Kellogg opened a Chicago Branch Sanitarium in 1893. There he attempted to spend every other Sunday visiting patients. Two months after opening the Chicago Branch Sanitarium, Kellogg founded the Chicago Medical Mission in a slum district in the southern part of the city. The mission featured a medical dispensary, free baths, and a free laundry, and for a time, free lunches. In 1896, the Medical Mission’s work was greatly expanded with establishment of the Workingman’s Home, which provided inexpensive lodging and healthful food to hundreds of men and even provided them with temporary employment.72

In 1895, Kellogg and his sanitarium associates formed the American Medical Missionary College (AMMC) to train physicians expected to provide evidence of their “Christian experience” and commit themselves to lives of missionary service. The students enrolled in AMMC received part of their training in Chicago, where the school was based and licensed, and at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Students were not charged tuition but were expected to contribute two hours of work at the Sanitarium each day when they were in Battle Creek. Kellogg proclaimed that the College had been founded to instruct future doctors in “rational medicine,” not “drugging.” In 1910, AMMC merged “with the Medical Department of the Illinois State University, also known as the College of Physicians and Surgeons,” nominally connected with the University of Illinois Medical School.73

As noted below, Kellogg and his wife raised many foster children, some of whom they adopted. Nonetheless, the number of orphaned children greatly exceeded the capacity of the Kelloggs to care for them all. In 1891, Kellogg raised this issue with church leaders and persuaded them to establish an Adventist-run orphanage. A large portion of the funds for the new project were donated by Caroline E. Haskell, an elderly guest at the Sanitarium who had inherited considerable money from her late husband. The Haskell Home for Orphans was opened in 1894, and for a decade and a half housed from 150 to 200 children and placed more than 500 orphans in foster homes.74

Family Life and Personal Traits

John Harvey Kellogg married Ella Eaton on February 22, 1879. A Seventh Day Baptist, Ella Eaton graduated from Alfred University with a degree in nutrition. She spent the next four years teaching school. While she and her sister were in Battle Creek visiting their aunt, her sister came down with typhoid fever. Kellogg’s colleague, Dr. Kate Lindsay, cared for the sick sister and, with Eaton’s help, her sister regained her health. Lindsay convinced Eaton to stay in Battle Creek to help care for other victims of typhoid fever which had reached epidemic proportions in the area. During this time Kellogg became impressed with Eaton’s “heroic way” and they married. Ella Kellogg remained dedicated to her husband and his philosophy for the rest of her life, and she played an integral role in the operations of the sanitarium. She died of colon cancer in 1920.75

Although John Harvey and Ella Kellogg remained completely devoted to each other during their forty-one-year marriage, they apparently never consummated their relationship. The doctor believed that sexual intimacy would sap his “vital powers.” Ironically, on their six-week honeymoon to New England, the doctor spent much of his time revising his previously published book, Plain Facts about Sexual Life (1877). Ella Kellogg also believed in abstinence and included a “Purity Pledge” in a pamphlet entitled Talks with Girls (1889) which encouraged adolescents to avoid sexual transgressions.76

Given their sexual abstinence, the Kelloggs never produced any offspring. However, they raised forty-two children over the years, seven of whom they officially adopted. It was a diverse “family” group that included four Mexicans, seven African Americans, and one Puerto Rican. All the children were home-schooled by Ella Kellogg and another teacher, Mary Lamson. Several of these children went on to respectable careers. John Harvey Kellogg, reportedly, was a good father who conducted regular family worships and romped with the children before heading off to work in the morning.77

Both John Harvey and Ella Kellogg believed that a quality environment could overcome negative hereditary tendencies. They decided to test this view by taking into their home several children from undesirable backgrounds. Unfortunately, despite good care, healthful nutrition, and a loving environment, some of the children turned out to be disappointments. One in particular, George, son of a Chicago prostitute, was a source of embarrassment for Kellogg and his wife. George became a Battle Creek drifter and often demanded money from Kellogg in exchange for avoiding public activities that would embarrass the doctor. Kellogg’s experience with children like George may have led to his later involvement with the eugenics movement (see below), which promoted “good breeding” among humans.78

John Harvey Kellogg’s younger brother, Will Keith Kellogg, served as the doctor’s able assistant at the Battle Creek Sanitarium for twenty-five years. By all counts “W.K.” was efficient, hard-working, dutiful, and single-handedly responsible for the smooth running of the non-medical operations at the San. Indeed, John Harvey Kellogg considered his brother “one of the most faithful, careful, painstaking persons” he knew. Nonetheless, the elder brother treated Will Keith Kellogg mercilessly, expecting him to work long hours managing the daily operations of the sanitarium, serving as his personal secretary, and caring for his far-flung personal and business concerns.79 In 1906, weary of subservience and after paying John Harvey Kellogg a half million dollars for the rights to corn flakes, Will Keith Kellogg struck out on his own and developed what eventually would become the enormously successful Kellogg Company, manufacturer of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and other products. The brothers spent significant parts of the last half of their lives fighting each another in court over various issues, especially use of the Kellogg name.80

John Harvey Kellogg admitted to Ellen White that he possessed some undesirable character traits, including “selfish pride” and a tendency to be “high-headed and hasty, suspicious, stubborn and irritable, hypersensitive, morbid and fretful.” He also acknowledged that he could be “selfish and narrow-minded” and “naturally strong-willed, pugnacious, controversial, and skeptical.”81 Traits such as these made him difficult to work with and led to his break with both his brother and with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Despite all the advice on healthful living he dispensed to patients and readers of his books, Kellogg’s own lifestyle was far from wholesome. “I love to work and to work hard,” he wrote Ellen White in 1896. According to one biographer, “Kellogg seemed able to tap almost superhuman sources of energy to keep going full tilt for extended periods.” At times, however, the work became too intense, occupying up to forty hours without a break. “I am under no obligation to practice what I preach,” he wrote on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday.

My business is to preach and really I haven’t time to practice. I am putting out fires; that is my business. I belong to the fire department, and I haven’t time to look after my own health. I am looking after other people’s health and my own health has to take the best chance it can.

The intensity of his work sometimes got the better of him. “My head and spine have been giving me great inconvenience and often acute suffering,” he once wrote after ten years of medical practice.

I reel and tremble, and get blind and have so many nervous symptoms I am ashamed to tell them all. Worst of all my mind seems to stop sometimes and I cannot force it to go. I am not frightened, for I have been through the same thing before, and more than once. I know that a little rest will restore me to myself again.

He did worry about becoming “a disgrace and a discredit to the principles I profess and teach,” and he sometimes tried to reform his practices. But at ninety-one years of age he was still dictating for stretches of up to sixteen hours straight.82


Kellogg always looked for new ways to improve people’s health, and in the process invented a wide variety of foods, surgical tools, and treatment devices. His goal was not to make money with these products but to help his patients and other people who used his creations to experience better health. In a 1916 comment related to his food inventions, which could just as easily pertain to his many non-food inventions, he said “I desire to make clear…that the food business I have been carrying on is part of my general scheme to propagate the ideas of health and biological living. Otherwise, I should not have engaged in it as a commercial enterprise, but I have carried it on as a part of the general philanthropic work in which I was engaged.” As one writer noted, “In no instance did Dr. Kellogg make a sustained effort to reap personal financial profit from any of his inventions or adaptations.”83

His most famous invention was that of flaked breakfast cereals, now ubiquitous in homes around the world. The invention of flaked cereals involved the ingenuity of not only John Harvey Kellogg, but also that of his brother, Will Keith Kellogg, his wife, and other sanitarium employees. John Harvey Kellogg believed that cereal grains were important elements of a good diet. Grains contain a large amount of starch which the digestive tract converts to the sugar dextrose. Given that dextrose is easier to digest than starch, the doctor reasoned that if people with digestive problems could eat grain foods containing more dextrose and less starch, they would have fewer problems. To this end, he and his helpers experimented with various baking and flaking processes, eventually yielding a series of cereal products with high concentrations of dextrose.84

In 1895, a flaked wheat cereal Kellogg named “Granose” was developed. It proved popular with patients at the sanitarium, and the popularity quickly spread. By the end of the year over 100,000 pounds of Granose had been sold.85 Three years later, John Harvey Kellogg formed that Sanitose Nut Food Company which sold Granose Wheat Flakes, along with a variety of other food inventions.86 In 1906, Will Keith Kellogg, in an agreement with his brother, began his own company selling flaked corn he called “cornflakes.” Will Keith Kellogg’s new operation eventually grew to become the multinational Kellogg Company.87

Other well-known food products invented by John Harvey Kellogg included whole-grain food, peanut butter–for patients who had a difficult time chewing whole peanuts (his was not the first version of this food);88 nut-based meat substitutes to provide plant-based, protein-rich food, a coffee substitute made from burned bread, bran, molasses, and corn; and a form of soy milk which the doctor called “soy acidophilus milk.” Later in life Kellogg claimed to have invented more than seventy-five different foods.89

Kellogg’s fertile imagination was responsible for the invention of numerous non-food items as well. For example, he designed a set of hooks and retractors for a type of ligament surgery, a water-heated operating table, an aseptic drainage tube for abdominal surgeries, and a snare for the removal of internal hemorrhoids. He also invented a wide variety of mechanical devices to promote muscle activity, vibrating machines to stimulate the viscera and increase blood circulation, and an air duct system for piping fresh air from outside directly to a patient’s head without appreciably cooling the room.90


John Harvey Kellogg wrote more than fifty books during his career. Some were small works consisting of a few dozen pages, but others were thick tomes containing hundreds of pages.91 Kellogg dictated much of his “writing” to stenographers at a rate of 180 to 200 words per minute for hours at a time. At night he dictated while lying down. He sometimes started dictating just before midnight and continued until near dawn. He felt most energized between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. During cold weather, one of his favorite ways to work was to wrap himself in blankets while lying on his front porch and dictate to a chilled secretary who dutifully recorded his words. He also dictated while traveling by train. He typically dictated entirely from his prodigious memory.92 “Kellogg’s literary style was simple and direct, almost conversational in nature,” wrote a biographer. “Although easy to follow, it lacked polish and was often repetitious and discursive.” Material from previous writing often was recycled into newer works, and favorite themes reappeared again and again.93

Most of Kellogg’s books were practical guides to health and living well, and featured wide-ranging topics. His first book, The Household Manual of Domestic Hygiene, Foods and Drinks, Common Diseases, Accidents and Emergencies and Useful Hints and Recipes (1875), dispensed advice on everything from making solder for tin to treating hang-nails.94 Other books dealt with colon hygiene, constipation, massage, intestinal toxemia, neurasthenia, smoking, natural diet, exercise, diabetes, cleanliness, breakfast, phototherapy, longevity, sunshine, soybeans, tropical fruit, and potatoes.95

Another early book, Plain Facts about Sexual Life (1877), was published when he was only twenty-five years old. It purportedly took him only fourteen days to write the 356-page best seller which went through multiple editions and ultimately sold a half million copies.96 The book first covered details about human reproduction, heredity, puberty, and related topics. It then broached issues surrounding marriage, chastity, continence, marital excess, contraception, and abortion, among others. By far, the largest section dealt with “solitary vice” (masturbation), alleged signs of its occurrence, methods of prevention, and diseases to which it purportedly led, including dyspepsia, heart disease, sore throat, headache, neuralgia, epilepsy, dimness of vision, spinal irritation, uterine disease, cancer, sterility, and insanity. An appendix listed foods alleged to cause “excitement and congestion” of the sexual organs, including salt, pepper, mustard, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, vinegar, most salads, beef, mutton, pork, fish, fowl, and eggs.97

The book that stirred up the most trouble between Kellogg and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, however, was The Living Temple (1903; see below). Kellogg reportedly dictated the entire 568-page tome in a ten-day period with the help of three stenographers.98 The first chapter outlined his views on “The Mystery of Life,” including such wonders as the “intelligence” manifested in plant seeds that “answer the call” to awaken in the spring, the “strange instincts” of carnivorous plants, the force of gravitation, and the powers that hold together a snowball. His second chapter highlights “A General View of the Temple,” with an allusion to the Apostle Paul’s question, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” (I Corinthians 6:19). The “divine Builder occupies” this complex body temple even “as he builds it,” Kellogg wrote. The remaining eighteen chapters dealt with various body structures and functions, with five of these chapters discussing food and the digestive tract. Laced throughout the book were texts from scripture proclaiming God’s involvement with the intricacies of life at all levels. In the Preface, Kellogg declared that the book “represents the first attempt which has been made to make a systematic study of the body and its care from the standpoint of Paul’s declaration.”99

In addition to books, Kellogg authored numerous articles for magazines, especially Good Health, a monthly Battle Creek Sanitarium-owned publication which he edited.100

Break from the Adventist Church

There had always existed an uneasy tension between Kellogg and church administrators. But as the nineteenth century drew to a close, these tensions escalated. For one thing, the Kellogg believed that Adventist clergy failed to live up to the health principles that both he and Ellen White advocated. In effect, he believed that by their lifestyles the clergy undermined his message of “biologic living.” He also looked down upon the ministers because they were not professionally educated to the same degree as he and his medical colleagues. Moreover, he considered ministers poor managers and thought them to be shortsighted, arbitrary, and dictatorial.101

Kellogg’s attitude toward Ellen White had deteriorated during this time as well. He began to express the view that her son, William C. (Willie) White, and church leaders, especially Arthur G. Daniells, who became the General Conference president in 1901, and his vice president W. W. Prescott, negatively influenced her views of his work and operations at the sanitarium. He considered the sharp rebukes he received from Ellen White the result of this negative influence. She had indeed reproved him for his critical attitudes toward Adventist clergy, doubts he expressed about certain Adventist beliefs, and his independent spirit. And following the rebuilding of the sanitarium following the 1902 fire, she asserted that the new building was too large and should have been built where there were fewer Adventists.102

Church leaders, for their part, were distressed by the doctor’s maneuverings which resulted in a new 1897 sanitarium charter stating that the sanitarium would be “undenominational” and “unsectarian.” Church leaders felt their influence over the denomination’s medical work was slipping away.103 And, while initially they had supported the doctor’s plan for Adventists to sell The Living Temple as a method of raising funds to pay down the cost of the new sanitarium building, once the book was published they backed away from the plan because of what they interpreted to be the book’s pantheistic slant.104 Statements such as “there is present in the tree a power which creates and maintains it, a tree-maker in the tree, a flower-maker in the flower”105 were particularly troublesome. Kellogg countered that his statements were similar to those made by Ellen White in her book Education–statements like: “A mysterious life pervades all nature, a life that sustains the unnumbered worlds throughout immensity; that lives in the insect atom which floats in the summer breeze; that wings the flight of the swallow, and feed the young ravens which cry; that brings the bud to blossom, and the flower to fruit.”106

Actually, neither Kellogg’s statements in The Living Temple nor White’s statements in Education fit the category of “pantheism” which holds that natural reality is God. Instead, they represent the concept of “divine immanence” by which God’s presence is intimately and directly responsible for the workings of the universe. In contrast to White’s approach, however, Kellogg took a non-Christocentric position, believing that nature was perfect and that biologic living was the path to both physical and spiritual perfection.107

Three reconciliation attempts were made to reunite the Kellogg faction with church administrators and Ellen White. The first two attempts, which occurred in 1903, worked for short periods of time but failed to hold long-term. The third attempt in 1904 completely failed to ameliorate the doctor’s antagonistic attitude.108

On Sunday, November 10, 1907, three days after a long interview with Kellogg by local church leaders, members of the Battle Creek Tabernacle voted to disfellowship him. Charges against the doctor included failure to attend services, neglect to pay tithe or make other financial contributions to the church, and antagonism toward “gifts now manifest in the church,” a reference to Ellen White’s testimonies. Despite the charges, Kellogg continued to pray, study the Bible, and accept general Christian beliefs, but he never joined another church organization.109

Kellogg’s separation from the Seventh-day Adventist Church was, of course, more complicated than the stated charges against the doctor would suggest. As already noted, Kellogg had antagonized the Adventist clergy and leadership with his independent spirit and power grabs. Moreover, his attempts to convert the denomination into a medical missionary organization would have resulted in a downplaying of Adventist doctrinal distinctiveness. As Kellogg himself stated, “My medical and scientific training made it impossible for me to believe some of the doctrines of the church, and I frankly said so.” Thus, it appears likely that issues of both power and theology were inexorably linked in Kellogg’s break with the denomination.110


The eugenics movement, which got its start during the 1860s, fostered the notion that the human race could be improved by applying the principles of heredity to human breeding.111 After his break with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, John Harvey Kellogg became an outspoken supporter of eugenics. As early as 1881, however, he had promoted legislation to prevent alcoholic, criminal, insane, and “feebleminded” individuals from having children, and he stated in 1886 that “the intellectual inferiority of the negro male is universally acknowledged.”112 Unlike many eugenicists, Kellogg believed in the discredited Lamarckian view that correct health habits could increase human longevity and restore “to the race the primitive toughness of fiber and immunity to disease and senility possessed by our primitive progenitors but lost by modern man.”113

Kellogg founded the American Medical Missionary Board in 1906, renamed the Race Betterment Foundation in 1914. The foundation supported medical missionary conferences at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, various health initiatives, and the early move toward prohibition. It also made gifts to various charitable organizations. Its most notable contribution to the eugenics movement, however, was sponsorship of three “National Conferences on Race Betterment.” The first (in 1914) and third (in 1928) conferences were held at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, whereas the second conference was held as part of San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition where the Race Betterment Foundation sponsored a pavilion and large eugenics display. The conferences featured talks by well-known eugenicists, scientists, presidents of social organizations, politicians, judges, and editors who promoted the doctrines of eugenics.114

Kellogg believed that the human species is divided into distinct racial categories. According to his commonly-held view, members of the white race were genetically superior in both physical and mental attributes to members of other races. Moreover, interbreeding of whites with members of other races was thought to lead to a dilution of superior white characteristics. Despite these attitudes, Kellogg actively fostered the advancement of African Americans. He refused to segregate blacks and whites at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, either as patients or students, and he maintained excellent relationships with the black community in Battle Creek. Sixty-seven African American physicians and nurses graduated from sanitarium-associated schools before 1917, and many of these graduates remained onboard as employees. Moreover, Kellogg was a strong supporter of the church’s mission to African Americans in the southern states, and he helped raise black orphans in his home.115

Kellogg remained committed to the principles of eugenics throughout the rest of his life, even after it became known as a pseudoscience that harbored “advocates of race and class prejudice, defenders of vested interests of church and state, Fascists, Hitlerites, and reactionaries.”116 In an address to the Third Race Betterment Conference, the seventy-six-year-old doctor proclaimed that “Eugenics, race hygiene as suggested by [Sir Francis] Galton, and euthenics, individual hygiene, must be made a religion, or rather a supplement to all other religions.”117 And just weeks before he died he wrote that race betterment was “the only hope there is for saving the human race.”118 He willed his entire estate to the Race Betterment Foundation, which limped along until its demise in 1967 as a consequence of gross mismanagement.119

Final Illness and Death

In the spring of 1943, 91-year-old Kellogg was involved in negotiations involving the ownership and management of what was left of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. His sight, hearing, and sense of taste, however, were rapidly deteriorating, and in the late fall he developed Bell’s palsy which caused the left side of his face to droop. Out of embarrassment over his appearance, the otherwise extroverted doctor began secluding himself within his Battle Creek residence.120

On December 11, soon after a conversation with his adopted son, Richard, John Harvey Kellogg developed an acute case of bronchitis and pneumonia accompanied by severe coughing and shortness of breath. Yet, two days later he felt quite well and had to be restrained by his doctor from meeting several appointments. However, that evening he slipped into a coma from which he never awoke. He died the next day, December 14, 1943, half an hour before midnight.121

The next morning, Kellogg’s body was transferred to a local funeral home where it was embalmed and dressed in his signature outfit—all white suit, shirt, tie, socks, and shoes. His mahogany, silk-lined coffin was taken to the sanitarium auditorium and placed atop a flower-bedecked bier, surrounded by an honor guard of nurses. Admirers filed by the coffin to pay last respects, each holding a printed document containing condolences sent by hundreds of prominent people from around the world.122

Kellogg was eulogized by Rev. Carleton Brooks Miller, pastor of Battle Creek’s First Congregational Church. Prayers at the service were offered by Elder E. L. Pingenot, pastor of the Battle Creek Tabernacle, and Rev. Henry Jordan, Battle Creek Sanitarium chaplain. Kellogg was laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, alongside his wife, Ella Kellogg, and not far from the graves of James and Ellen White, former slave and author Sojourner Truth, and cereal magnate, C. W. Post. Eight years later the remains of his estranged younger brother, Will Keith Kellogg, were buried in an adjacent plot.123


John Harvey Kellogg was one of the most powerful, colorful, and controversial figures in Seventh-day Adventist history, and he played a prominent role in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century America. His influence was derived in part from his early friendship with and financial support from James and Ellen White. It was also derived from the Adventist Church’s strong advocacy of health which provided Kellogg with a platform for his own iconoclastic views on the topic. As time went on, however, his beliefs, temperament, and domineering personality clashed with Adventist Church leadership and led to his break with the denomination. Nonetheless, his direct influence was still felt among Adventists long after his official break with the Church, for Adventists continued to be guests and to work at the Battle Creek Sanitarium.124

Kellogg’s emphasis on the relationship between personal habits and health was one of his most important contributions. When he began practicing medicine, many people believed sickness was the result of divine judgment, breathing night air, and other imagined causes. As a young doctor, Kellogg adopted the germ theory of disease, and it was on this basis that he promoted the importance of personal hygiene and use of uncontaminated food. He believed, however, that microbes were only partly responsible for disease. He was an early advocate of vigorous physical activity, ample rest, well-fitting clothing, and a sense of emotional well-being as defenses against disease. Many of the “natural” remedies he championed at Battle Creek Sanitarium, including hydrotherapy, exercise, good posture, application of heat, and electrical stimulation continue to be used today by physical therapists.125

Kellogg permanently changed the eating habits of Americans through his inventions of flaked cereal and a form of peanut butter. His invention of meat substitutes made from nuts and legumes provided vegetarians with tasty, nutritious alternatives to the use of meat in the diet. As vegetarianism became more popular in culture due to concerns over health, animal rights, and the environment, Kellogg’s dietary innovations continued to grow in relevance. He was one of the first health reformers to recognize the dangers of obesity to health, and appealed to a growing sedentary population to control not only what they ate but also how much.126

The term “sanitarium” became part of the Adventist vocabulary and heritage, and even spread to the wider culture. Adventist institutions adopting that name and Kellogg’s philosophy developed at other locations in North America and throughout the world. Most of these facilities eventually morphed into general hospitals owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, part of a worldwide network of eventually over 170 such institutions.127

Some of John Harvey Kellogg’s views have been abandoned. For example, his avid endorsement of the concept of “autointoxication” and the importance of multiple daily bowel movements has been thoroughly discredited;128 his belief that masturbation and frequent sexual intercourse in marriage lead to heart disease, epilepsy, cancer, insanity, and other serious maladies no longer receives support from the health community;129 and his advocacy of eugenics, including a belief in the superiority of the “white race,” amounted to a reprehensible and now discarded view.130 However, the lasting influence of many of his inventions and views, especially his promotion of what today is called “wellness,” outweigh some of his negative influences on society.131


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  1. Howard Markel, The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2017), 3-10, 20.

  2. Richard William Schwarz, “John Harvey Kellogg: American Health Reformer” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1964), 3 (Note: Richard W. Schwarz, John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2006) covers virtually the same material as the dissertation and is more accessible, but it contains no footnotes or references.); Markel, 16-17.

  3. Schwarz, 3; Markel, 17-18.

  4. Schwarz, 7-8.

  5. Schwarz, 105-106.

  6. Rachel Williams, “The Water-Cure Journal and Herald of Reform: Understanding Hydropathy in Antebellum America,” U. S. Studies Online, February 1, 2017, accessed on December 6, 2018,; Schwarz, 130-132; Patsy Gerstner, “The Temple of Health: A Pictorial History of the Battle Creek Sanitarium,” Caduceus: A Humanities Journal for Medicine and the Health Sciences 12, no. 2 (1996): 1-99.

  7. Schwarz, 7-9.

  8. Rachel Williams, “The Water-Cure Journal and Herald of Reform: Understanding Hydropathy in Antebellum America,” U. S. Studies Online, February 1, 2017, accessed on December 6, 2018,; Schwarz, 130-132; Patsy Gerstner, “The Temple of Health: A Pictorial History of the Battle Creek Sanitarium,” Caduceus: A Humanities Journal for Medicine and the Health Sciences 12, no. 2 (1996): 1-99.

  9. Schwarz, 8-9.

  10. Markel, 20.

  11. Brian C. Wilson, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2014), 8-10; Markel, 26-27.

  12. Markel, 28-30.

  13. Markel, 29-30; August F. Bloese “Biography of John Harvey Kellogg,” Race Betterment Foundation, Battle Creek, MI, cited by Schwarz, 16. Schwarz notes that “Bloese was Dr. Kellogg’s secretary for nearly thirty years. His biography consists mainly of anecdotes which he heard the doctor relate on various occasions.”

  14. [J. H.] Kellogg, undated and untitled MS, Race Betterment Foundation Kellogg Papers, cited by Schwarz, 12; Markel, 32-33.

  15. Schwarz, 16-17; Markel, 32.

  16. Schwarz, 17-18.

  17. Anonymous, “Sketch of Life Experiences of John Harvey Kellogg,” memo dated November 9, 1922, probably prepared by the doctor’s sister, Clara Kellogg Butler, who was one of his closest confidants, cited by Schwarz, 13; Schwarz, 19-20.

  18. Ibid., 20-21.

  19. Ibid., 21-24; Markel, 45-46. Markel notes that “In later years, John made it a point of pride that he never included the Trall degree on his Curriculum Vitae or his annual entries in Who’s Who” (46).

  20. Schwarz, 24-36.

  21. Ibid., 37-43.

  22. Dores Eugene Robinson, The Story of Our Health Message: The Origin, Character, and Development of Health Education in the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1943), 132-133.

  23. Schwarz, 170-177; Markel, 95-96.

  24. Markel, 90-92; Schwarz, 174-177.

  25. Markel, 91-93.

  26. Schwarz, 181-182.

  27. Markel, 96.

  28. Ibid., 96-97; Schwarz, 182-183.

  29. Schwarz, 182-183.

  30. Ibid., 183-185; the outsized employee to patient ratio apparently could be maintained as a result of low employee wages and Dr. Kellogg’s personal subsidies to the institution from surgical fees and other sources; see note 42 , Schwarz, 185.

  31. Ibid., 353-358; Robinson, 275-278.

  32. Schwarz, 185-186.

  33. Markel, 166-167, 171-172.

  34. Schwarz, 187-188.

  35. Ibid., 189; Markel, 166-169.

  36. Schwarz, 194-197; Markel, 221, 231-233; Gerstner, 81.

  37. Schwarz, 190-194, 467.

  38. Ibid., 464-474; Markel, 378.

  39. Schwarz, 473-474.

  40. Ibid., 476-483.

  41. Ibid., 476-485; Markel, 379-381.

  42. Kellogg coined the term “biologic living” during the second decade of the twentieth century, but he developed his ideas on the topic while working at the Review and Herald office as a teenager where he read the complete works of Sylvester Graham and L. B. Coles (Schwarz 114; see also note 48 on the same page).

  43. Robinson, 56-57, 66-67.

  44. Wilson, 45.

  45. J. H. Kellogg, “The Hygienic Platform,” Health Reformer 10 (January 1875), 18.

  46. Wilson, 36-37.

  47. J. H. Kellogg, The Uses of Water in Health and Disease: A Practical Treatise on the Bath, Its History and Uses (Battle Creek, MI: The Office of the Health Reformer, 1876).

  48. Markel, 201.

  49. Gerstner, 54-61.

  50. J. H. Kellogg, “The New Dietary,” Good Health, March, 1899, 121-123; Schwarz, 116-126.

  51. Markel, 173; Kellogg wrote the lyrics to this song (see Markel’s note 20 on page 429).

  52. J. H. Kellogg, Autointoxication or Intestinal Toxemia (Battle Creek, MI: The Modern Medicine Publishing Co., 1919), 307-313.

  53. J. H. Kellogg, Colon Hygiene (Battle Creek, MI: Good Health Publishing Co., 1917), 131-134, 219, 309-317, 372; see also J. H. Kellogg, Constipation; How to Fight It (Battle Creek, MI: Good Health Publishing Co., 1915); J. H. Kellogg, The Crippled Colon; Causes, Consequences, Remedies (Battle Creek, MI: The Modern Medicine Publishing Co., 1931).

  54. J. H. Kellogg, Man, the Masterpiece: Plain Truths Plainly Told, about Boyhood, Youth and Manhood (Des Moines, IA: Condit & Nelson, 1886), 89-134; Markel, The Kelloggs, 215.

  55. John Harvey Kellogg, The Battle Creek Sanitarium Health Ladder: A Series of Twenty Health Promoting Exercises (New York, NY: Columbia Graphaphone Co., 1923), 3.

  56. Gerstner, 46-47.

  57. Ibid., 53.

  58. Horace B. Powell, The Original Has This Signature–W. K. Kellogg (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1956), 96.

  59. Schwarz, 134.

  60. J. H. Kellogg, “Hygiene of the Muscles,” Good Health, March 1881, 65-68; J. H. Kellogg, The Living Temple (Battle Creek, MI: Good Health Publishing Company, 1903), 346-354.

  61. Ibid., 340-341.

  62. Ibid., 376-379.

  63. Markel, 212; J. H. Kellogg, Chair, U.S. Patent No. 1,576,613, filed July 21, 1924, and patented March 16, 1926, Index of Patents Issued from the United States Patent Office 1926, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1927, accessed on December 15, 2018,

  64. Markel, 195-202.

  65. Schwarz, 77-78.

  66. Ibid., 64.

  67. Schwarz, John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer, 147.

  68. Schwarz, John Harvey Kellogg: American Health Reformer, 247-250.

  69. Ibid., 218-219.

  70. Ibid., 248, 316-319.

  71. Ibid., 337-339.

  72. Ibid., 324-334.

  73. Ibid., 226-231; Anonymous, “The Merger of the American Medical Missionary College,” Medical Missionary 19 (1910): 259-260; Abraham Flexner, Medical Education in the United States and Canada. A Report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Bulletin No. 4 (New York, NY: Carnegie Foundation, 1910), 208, 244-245.

  74. Schwarz, 309-315.

  75. Ibid., 89-95; Markel, 124-129; Elizabeth Neumeyer, “Mother”: Ella Eaton Kellogg (Battle Creek, MI: Heritage Battle Creek, 2001) provides an excellent profile of Ella Kellogg including photographs and samples of her extensive writing.

  76. Markel, 126-127; Ella E. Kellogg, Talks with Girls: An Address on the Social Purity Pledge (Battle Creek, MI: Good Health Publishing Co., 1889). In the same publication, Talks with Girls was paired with a piece by J. H. Kellogg entitled Social Purity: An Address.

  77. Ibid., 124-125; Schwarz, 303-309.

  78. Schwarz, 305-309.

  79. Powell, 57-66; Schwarz, 421; Markel, 145, 206-211.

  80. Powell’s book, The Original Has This Signature: W.K. Kellogg, a biography about the younger brother, provides a detailed look at the birth and growth of the Kellogg Company; Markel’s dual biography, The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek, details the legal battles between the brothers.

  81. Schwarz, 75.

  82. Ibid., 44-54.

  83. Ibid., 294-295.

  84. Ibid., 276-284; Markel, 109-145.

  85. Markel, 134.

  86. Ibid., 274.

  87. Ibid., 252-268.

  88. Ibid., 323 and note 4 on 466.

  89. Schwarz, 283-288.

  90. Ibid., 288-295.

  91. Ibid., 493-495, contains a complete list of all Kellogg’s books.

  92. Ibid., 47-49.

  93. Ibid., 233.

  94. J. H. Kellogg, The Household Manual of Domestic Hygiene, Foods and Drinks, Common Diseases, Accidents and Emergencies and Useful Hints and Recipes (Battle Creek, MI: The Office of the Health Reformer, 1875), 81, 119.

  95. Schwarz, 493-495.

  96. Ibid., 233.

  97. J. H. Kellogg, Plain Facts about Sexual Life (Battle Creek, MI: The Office of the Health Reformer, 1877); Ronald L. Numbers, “Sex, Science, and Salvation: The Sexual Advice of Ellen G. White and John Harvey Kellogg,” in Right Living: An Anglo-American Tradition of Self-Help Medicine and Hygiene edited by Charles Rosenberg (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), 218-220.

  98. Wilson, 85.

  99. Kellogg, 3, 22-26, 41.

  100. Schwarz, 495-497 lists articles by Kellogg.

  101. Schwarz, 347-350.

  102. Ibid., 365-369, 373-375, 391-396.

  103. Ibid., 353-357.

  104. Ibid., 188-189, 386-391. See also Norman H. Young, “The Alpha Heresy: Kellogg and the Cross,” Adventist Heritage 12, no. 1 (1987): 33-42; Young quotes from page 32 of The Living Temple where Kellogg asserts that “God is a definite, real, personal being.” Young notes that “A pantheist denies God’s personality by identifying Him with the world; as this quote makes clear, Kellogg was not a pantheist in this sense.”

  105. Kellogg, 29.

  106. Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1903), 99; Wilson 85-102.

  107. Wilson, 85-102.

  108. Schwarz, 397-405.

  109. Ibid., 67, 408-411.

  110. Dr. Sanford P. S. Edwards letter of July 28, 1957 to Emmett K. Vande Vere, quoted in Vande Vere, Windows: Selected Readings in Seventh-day Adventist Church History, 1844-1922 (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1975), 229; Wilson, 111.

  111. Daniel J. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), 3-5.

  112. J. H. Kellogg, “A Sensible Law,” Good Health, March 1881, 86; J. H. Kellogg, Ladies Guide in Health and Disease: Girlhood, Maidenhood, Wifehood, Motherhood (Des Moines, IA: Condit & Nelson, 1886), 193.

  113. John Harvey Kellogg, “Habits in Relation to Health and Longevity,” in Proceedings of the Third Race Betterment Conference (Battle Creek, MI: Race Betterment Foundation, 1928), 316; Wilson, 138-141.

  114. Schwarz, 454-461.

  115. Wilson, 144-148.

  116. In Kevles’ In the Name of Eugenics, a major historical account of eugenics, Kellogg’s name is not mentioned, although Kellogg’s Race Betterment Foundation is noted as one of several eugenics organizations that sprang up in the United States in the twentieth century; Hermann J. Muller, Out of the Night: A Biologist’s View of the Future (New York, NY: Vanguard Press, 1935), ix-x.

  117. Kellogg, “Habits in Relation to Health and Longevity,” 347.

  118. Markel, 321; Wilson, 175.

  119. Markel, 321.

  120. Ibid., 379-381; Schwarz, 482-486.

  121. Markel, 381.

  122. Ibid., xvi-xviii.

  123. Ibid., xviii; Schwarz, 486; General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Michigan Conference, and the Ellen G. White Estate, Following the Pioneers in Historic Michigan: A Go-It-Yourself Guide to Places of Interest in the History of Seventh-day Adventists in Michigan (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, n.d.), 12.

  124. Markel, 189.

  125. Schwarz, 487-491.

  126. Ibid., 489-490.

  127. Markel, 95-96; Schwarz, 490; a list of sanitaria and hospitals operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2017 is found in Seventh-day Adventist Church Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2017), 689-718.

  128. E. Ernst, “Colonic Irrigation and the Theory of Autointoxication: A Triumph of Ignorance over Science,” Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 24, no. 4 (1997): 196-198.

  129. Michael S. Patten, “Twentieth-Century Attitudes toward Masturbation,” Journal of Religion and Health 25, no. 4 (Winter, 1986): 291-302.

  130. Kevles, ix-x, 300-301; Harvey Green, Fit for America: Health, Fitness, Sport, and American Society (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1986), 254; Wilson, Dr. Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living, 133-170; Markel, 298.

  131. Markel, xxi.


Hayward, James L. "Kellogg, John Harvey (1852–1943)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 28, 2020. Accessed May 29, 2024.

Hayward, James L. "Kellogg, John Harvey (1852–1943)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 28, 2020. Date of access May 29, 2024,

Hayward, James L. (2020, January 28). Kellogg, John Harvey (1852–1943). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 29, 2024,