The saga of brothers John and Will Kellogg, whose lifelong competition and enmity toward one another changed America’s notion of health and wellness from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.
In addition to capturing the personalities of the two brothers, Markel does an extraordinary job covering the many complex dimensions of this story, including John’s later, unfortunate embrace of his own idiosyncratic version of the pseudoscience of eugenics ... Markel, the author of three previous, well-received histories has, by reaching into a simple box of cornflakes, come up with a rich and satisfying account of the lives, work and enmity of two warring brothers and of a pivotal epoch in American history.
...a compelling yarn and a fascinating window into the genesis of both modern medicine and management ... Mr. Markel is most effective in conveying the state of medical science when the Kelloggs appeared on the scene. The description of John Harvey Kellogg’s medical training in New York City at Bellevue in the late 1800s, when that institution was indisputably the premier teaching hospital in North America, is eye-opening ... The Kelloggs is markedly less successful at illuminating the remarkable accomplishments of the bitter and taciturn Will Keith Kellogg once he escaped the suffocating grip of his brother ... The Kelloggs tells a good story of how an epically dysfunctional family produced two monumentally successful institutions. The story of how those institutions have flourished independently for more than 65 years since the death of their founder is worthy of another book.
...[a] comprehensive, if sometimes plodding, dual biography ... Markel has dived deep into archives and brings an impressive knowledge of American cultural and food history to his account. The brothers may have hated one another, but Markel is persuasive in his case that neither would have succeeded alone ... John, always attracted to visions of purity, would take a dark turn to eugenics. In the end it is Will who emerges as the more sympathetic figure — and better businessman. Even in terms of their philanthropic efforts, it would be Will, not John, 'who achieved a certain kind of immortality.’'’