Sylvester Graham, best known today for his invention of Graham crackers, was from a line of clergymen-physicians and was born in West Suffield in 1794, the 17th child of the 72-year old Reverend John Graham, Jr. Graham decided to prepare for the ministry also, and studied languages at Amherst College briefly in 1823. Following a long illness, he began preaching for the Presbyterian Church in New Jersey, and in 1830 was made general agent for the Pennsylvania Temperance Society.

        Probably because of concern for his own health, he became interested in human physiology and nutrition, giving lectures in the eastern states, and developing what came to be known as the Graham System, a vegetarian dietetic theory. He advocated use of whole wheat for bread, hard mattresses, open windows, fresh fruits and vegetables, pure drinking water, and cheerfulness at meals . . . apparently revolutionary ideas at the time. A number of his lectures were published, including: “The Young Man’s Guide to Chastity” and “Discourses on a Sober and Temperate Life.” Although he became the subject of jokes and editorials — Emerson called him the “poet of bran and pumpkins” and his “Treatise on Bread and Bread Making” of 1837 resulted in an attack by a mob of Boston bakers — Graham flour was successfully being milled, Graham boarding houses were established, and his lectures were being published. Graham’s most ambitious work, Lectures on the Science of Human Life, published in 1839, became a leading text on health reform, but his popularity waned after 1840 and he died in 1851 before completing The Philosophy of Sacred History, a collection of his lectures relating his theories of living habits to the scriptures.