skip to main content

Hygienic Physiology

Joel Dorman Steele (1836-1886)
Hygienic Physiology (New York: American Book Company, 1888)
MU Special Collections
Historic Textbook Collection
QP36 .S83

Joel Dorman Steele portrait
Image credit: Joel Dorman Steele, Teacher and Author by Anna Campbell Palmer (1900)

Joel Dorman Steele was one of the most popular textbook writers in nineteenth-century America. Hygienic Physiology was a secondary-level health textbook.  It contains information on various parts of the body, and also has a chapter on healthy eating and the digestive system.

Steele drew on the latest scientific information to produce this textbook.  His explanation of digestion illustrates how much doctors had learned since the eighteenth century.  However, nutritionists at the time classified food into three groups: nitrogenous (meats and proteins), carbonaceous (sugars and fats), and minerals (water and trace elements like iron or lime).  This system causes Steele to give some ill-founded advice; for example:

Coffee is about half nitrogen, and the rest fatty, saccharine, and mineral substances. It is, therefore, of much nutritive value, especially taken with milk and sugar.

Previous Next