Dr. J.H. Kellogg Discovery Center – Battle Creek, Michigan - Atlas Obscura

Dr. J.H. Kellogg Discovery Center

The unusual medical inventions of the man who gave the world Corn Flakes. 


It may look like an odd, antique gym, but the exhibit at the Dr. J. H. Kellogg Discovery Center in Battle Creek, Michigan, represents a significant—and painful—chapter in medical history.

The name Kellogg is most commonly associated with breakfast cereals, but before he was a cereal maker, John Harvey Kellogg, MD was a physician. He served as the director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan from 1876 until 1938.

Kellogg was also a vocal eugenicist, and he was particularly concerned with an idea he called “race degeneracy.” He and his wife supported segregation, and considered racial mixing and mental defectives a threat to the gene pool. In 1906, Kellogg founded the Race Betterment Foundation along with Irving Fisher and Charles Davenport.

As a physician, Kellogg believed that nutrition could be used to treat many medical conditions. He invented Corn Flakes in 1894 along with other food products he wanted his sanitarium patients to eat to improve their health. He also invented a wide variety of machines intended to boost healthy living.

Many of his inventions revolved around some kind of therapy, from phototherapy to hydrotherapy to electrotherapy. There is a sit-down light bath, like one used by Thomas Edison (which can still be seen at the Edison estate in Florida). Visitors to the exhibit can sit in a sitz bath, which Kellogg did not invent, but used in many of his hydrotherapy techniques.

Kellogg ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium until 1938, when declining patient numbers forced its closure. His machines, though, were not just used in the sanitarium. Several of them, like the mechanical horse and horizontal light bath (examples of both of which are on display at the center), were used on the Titanic. President Coolidge had a mechanical horse during his time in the White House, and a horizontal light bath was used in Buckingham Palace by King Edward.

For those who had not been eating as healthily as Kellogg—a vegetarian who discouraged drinking, smoking, and many of the more enjoyable foods—would have liked, there were things like the kneading machine, which relieved constipation by massaging the bladder, and the colonic machine, which was intended to cleanse the body of toxins by clearing out the colon.

Kellogg’s inventions are now on display at the Discovery Center, part of the Historic Adventist Village in Michigan. The interactive exhibit allows visitors to try some of them. For instance, they can have their feet massaged by the foot vibrator, which was intended to soothe aching feet and get the blood flowing. A vibrating chair and oscillo-manipulator of his invention are also on display. The center also features one of Kellogg’s signature all-white suits, which he often wore complete with a white cockatoo on his shoulder, as well as a sanitarium nurse’s uniform. His contributions to the world of cereal are also well represented.

Know Before You Go

The parking is at the corner of W Van Buren and N Wood streets, the Google Map address is 480 W Van Buren St, Battle Creek, MI 49037.

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