For Cristin Kearns, it happened like all great Google finds: late at night, after clicking through every link on 10 pages of search results. That’s when she first saw the name of famed nutritionist Ancel Keys inside an unlikely book, Zoology Reprints and Separata, etc., Vol. 166.
Zoology Reprints is one of the tens of millions of books Google has scanned, uploaded to the Internet, and made word-searchable. The volume’s contents are varied and obscure. There’s a list of tree species living in forests in the United States; a course catalog for Sul Ross State Teachers College in Texas; and a number of sugar-company pamphlets from the 1940s, including “Sugar Is the Foundation of All Life” and “Some Facts About the Sugar Research Foundation, Inc. and its Prize Award Program.”
It was in the latter that Kearns learned that trade associations for sugar manufacturers even existed, and that they funded research. From there, she found library catalog listings of other papers, hidden in plain sight in university collections. Kearns has been using these papers to determine how corporations influenced American research on sugar’s adverse health effects.