Prof wins a 2015 Independent Publisher Book Award

contact: Mark Schwerin
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. Brian Wilson.

Wilson

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A book by a Western Michigan University professor about Battle Creek's health and wellness past and its central figure, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, has won an Independent Publisher Book Award, known as the "IPPY."

"Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living" by Dr. Brian C. Wilson, professor of comparative religion, won an IPPY Silver Medal in the biography category. Conducted annually, the Independent Publisher Book Awards honor the year's best independently published titles from around the world. The awards are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university and self-published titles published each year. This was the 19th year for the annual contest.

How it came about

Wilson didn't start off writing a book about Kellogg, the older brother of cereal magnate W.K. Kellogg. He was interested in writing about the religious history of Battle Creek, which was founded as a Quaker town and became a hotbed for spiritualism, attracting other, radical religious groups. He started reading about the Seventh-day Adventists, who showed up in 1855, and from there he ran into John Harvey Kellogg. He was intrigued.

The book was published by Indiana University Press in September 2014. To a large extent, Wilson wanted to correct misperceptions about Kellogg perpetuated in works of popular culture, such as "The Road to Wellville," a novel by T. Coraghessan Boyle, and subsequent film by the same name.

Kellogg grew up in what essentially was then a small, semi-frontier town, yet created what became the most famous health-and-wellness center in the United States and possibly the world. From 1876 to 1943, Kellogg presided over the Battle Creek Sanitarium, which one observer described as a "combination 19th-century European health spa and 20th-century Mayo Clinic." The "San," as it came to be known, was founded in 1866 under the auspices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the Western Health Reform Institute and grew under Kellogg's guiding and charismatic hand into a massive health resort encompassing  a hospital, research facilities, medical and nursing schools and more.

Even the breakfast cereal industry is a spinoff of the Kellogg brothers' quest for more healthy dietary alternatives. J.H. Kellogg was a huge proponent of a vegetarian diet and, along with his younger brother, Will Keith, discovered the flaking process and invented the cornflake.

W.K. Kellogg started Kellogg Co., his own cereal company, while J.H. Kellogg concentrated on his beloved sanitarium. The sanitarium flourished through the early 1900s and was rebuilt in high style after a catastrophic fire in 1902. Its guests included a who's-who in American and international social circles, including movie stars, writers, artists, rich industrialists and even U.S. presidents.

Then came the Great Depression, and the sanitarium went bankrupt in 1933. Its spectacular buildings were eventually sold to the federal government, becoming Percy Jones Hospital, which treated soldiers injured in World War II. Today it houses several government agencies as the Battle Creek Federal Center.

How to order

The book is available at amazon.com or from the Indiana University Press at iupress.indiana.edu.

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