Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living

Brian C. Wilson
Distribution: World
Publication date: 9/18/2014
Format: cloth 264 pages, 30 b&w illus.
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-253-01447-4
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Purveyors of spiritualized medicine have been legion in American religious history, but few have achieved the superstar status of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his Battle Creek Sanitarium. In its heyday, the “San” was a combination spa and Mayo Clinic. Founded in 1866 under the auspices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and presided over by the charismatic Dr. Kellogg, it catered to many well-heeled health seekers including Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, and Presidents Taft and Harding. It also supported a hospital, research facilities, a medical school, a nursing school, several health food companies, and a publishing house dedicated to producing materials on health and wellness. Rather than focusing on Kellogg as the eccentric creator of corn flakes or a megalomaniacal quack, Brian C. Wilson takes his role as a physician and a theological innovator seriously and places his religion of “Biologic Living” in an on-going tradition of sacred health and wellness. With the fascinating and unlikely story of the "San" as a backdrop, Wilson traces the development of this theology of physiology from its roots in antebellum health reform and Seventh-day Adventism to its ultimate accommodation of genetics and eugenics in the Progressive Era.

Author Bio

Brian C. Wilson is Professor in the Department of Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University. His publications include Yankees in Michigan and What Is Religion?


"This is a thoroughly researched and engagingly written biography of one of the most influential and intriguing figures in the history of American health culture. More, it provides a fascinating exploration of the melding of biological science with religion to create a worldview in which physical well-being is mandatory for morality, with health equated to holiness and sickness interpreted as sin. It is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the evolution of health beliefs and practices in the United States." —James C. Whorton, Nature Cures: The History of Alternative Medicine in America

"Accounts of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of flaked cereals and peanut butter and advocate of sexual abstinence and frequent bowel movements, vary from mockery to adulation. By focusing instead on Kellogg’s changing religious views, from Seventh-day Adventism to eugenicism, Brian C. Wilson has written the most balanced biography yet: vivid, perceptive, and meticulously researched." —Ronald L. Numbers, Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White

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Table of Contents

1. Battle Creek Beginnings
2. The Rise of the Temple of Health
3. The Theology of Biologic Living
4. The Living Temple
5. Dr. Kellogg’s Break with the Seventh-day Adventist Church
6. Dr. Kellogg and Race Betterment
Conclusion: The Fall of the Temple of Health
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