“An ostentatiously prodigious worker”

George Howe Colt writing in Brothers: On His Brothers and Brothers in History about the work habits and many accomplishments of Dr. John Kellogg:

The Doctor was the wizard behind this vegetarian Oz. He was, in his way, no less a visionary than Ellen White, and his goal as no less ambitious: to change the way Americans ate, breathed, dressed, exercised, and defecated. To that end, he churned out nearly fifty books (Rational Hydrotherapy); more than two hundred medical papers (“Surgery of the Ileocecal Valve”); and so many pamphlets for the lay reader (“Nuts May Save the Race”) that even the publicity-conscious doctor couldn’t keep count.

He founded a nursing school, which, not coincidentally, provided the San with a stead stream of low-paid employees. He helped establish more than thirty San franchises across the country. He gave more than five thousand lectures. He made frequent trips abroad: to examine the latest exercise equipment in Sweden; to study advanced surgical techniques in England; to learn about the bowel-cleansing benefits of yogurt in France.

He invented a heated operating table, a vibrating chair that increased blood circulation, an electric belt that massaged the hips, a mechanical exercise horse, a machine that kneaded the abdomen to relieve constipation, a canvas sleeve that brought fresh air into a patient’s bedroom at night without chilling the entire room, a tobaccoless Turkish pipe.

An ostentatiously prodigious worker, the Doctor rose at four a.m. for an enema, a cold bath, and calisthenics before launching into a twenty-hour workday. He bragged of composing between twenty-five and fifty lectures a day (many of them novella-size); of dictating eighteen hours at a stretch (pausing only as one exhausted stenographer gave way to another); of working forty hours straight without nourishment (other than the handful of nuts he hoarded like a squirrel in his coat pocket); of performing as many as twenty-five operations in a day. (Though he made his name promoting fringe medical therapies, the Doctor was an accomplished gastrointestinal surgeon whose precise stitching moved the director of the Johns Hopkins Hospital  to remark, “I have never seen such beautiful human needlework.”)

Fortunately, the Doctor was a skilled multitasker. While taking his morning bath, he listened to staff reports; while dictating, he polished off a few medical journals. Once, on a camel caravan in the Sahara Desert, clad in nothing but a pith helmet and a loincloth, he took advantage of a brief stop at an oasis to dictate an entire issue of Good Health magazine.

And you thought you were a workaholic…

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