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Benjamin Rush Biography


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Dr. Benjamin Rush (December 24, 1745 – April 19, 1813) was a Founding Fathers of the United States of the United States. Rush lived in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania and was a physician, writer, Education in the United States, and Humanitarianism. He also was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and attended the Continental Congress. Later in life, he became a professor of medical theory and clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania. Despite having a wide influence on the development of Federal Government of the United States, he is not as widely known as many of his American contemporaries. Rush was also an early opponent of slavery and capital punishment.

Rush was born in Act of Consolidation, 1854#Byberry.2C Township of, around 12 miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father died when he was six, and Rush spent most of his early life with his maternal uncle, the Reverend Samuel Finley. He attended Samuel Finley's academy at Nottingham which would later become West Nottingham Academy. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), and then obtained a medical degree at the University of Edinburgh. While in Europe practicing medicine, he learned French language, Italian language, and Spanish language. Returning to the Thirteen colonies in 1769, Rush opened a medical practice in Philadelphia and became Professor of Chemistry at the College of Philadelphia. It has been alleged that, prior to his marriage to Julia Stockton, Dr. Rush had been engaged in 1774 to a Miss Sarah Eve, daughter of Powder Manufacturer and Loyalist, Oswell Eve Sr., but she died while under the care of Dr. Redman, through the consultation of Dr. Rush, two weeks before the wedding was to take place on Christmas.See: (EVE, Sarah (1759-1774) of Frankford, Pennsylvania, In Pennsylvania Mag. Hist. Biog. V, 1881, pp 19-36 and 191-205.) The original manuscript of Miss Sarah Eve is located in the rare book and manuscript department of Duke University, Georgia. In the bill submitted by John Redman for treatment of Sarah Eve, Dr. Redman states: "1774 Octobr & Nov - To my attendance to his Daughter in the country for several weeks, in consultation to Dr. Rush - £ 90..0..0." The bill is located in Pennsylvania State Archives Claims Papers Relating Primarily to Forfeited Estates, 1778-1791. {series #33.29} On July 25, 1781 Dr. Rush and his wife Julia, bought a plantation in Oxford Township, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania. This plantation was their summer residence until it was sold on December 31, 1792.See Deeds: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~solly/pages/greenwoodhistory.html Although the house is on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and supposed to be protected by law, it is under threat of demolition through neglect by the owners of the property. Dr. Rush's summer home is located at 900 Adams Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa. 19124. Facts about the summer residency were long under dispute until the recent discovery of an advertisement confirming the Summer Home ownership and residency.See: Classified Adv Paper: Poulson's American Daily Advertiser, Date: 1815-05-20; Vol: XLIV; Iss: 12013; Page: 2; accessible through: http://www.godfrey.org/ The advertisement appeared at least thirteen times between 1815-05-20 and 1815-06-09 (digital images under Copyright of Newsbank and the American Antiquarian Society). The 1815 newspapers articles may or may not be available from other sources such as a public library, and may already be considered in the public domain. Because of the poor quality of the digitized images from Newsbank, the following excerpt took ample time in preparing, is an interpretation of words that may or may not be contained within the digital images and therefore should not be considered to be an exact duplication of an original, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgeman_Art_Library_v._Corel_Corp) and therefore considered not under copyright:
“...the Improvements consist of a large stone Mansion House, Kitchen, &c. suitable for a large family, formerly the summer residence of the late Dr. Rush: a stone Spring House, a Pump of excellent water, a frame Barn and Stable, a good Garden, two Orchards of prime fruit; also, a tenant’s House, with Garden and Orchard, &c. There are on the farm an Excellent Building and Whet Stone Quarry, both Of which may be worked to great profit, known by the name of Harper’s Quarry. This farm is plentifully supplied with water from a number springs, and from Frankford Creek, which forms a part of the boundary line...”
The additional following advertisement appeared in several newspapers, definitively proving the Oxford Township Plantation, which served as Dr. Rush's cottage farm and summer residence:
"Philadelphia, March 22, 1786.
By virtue of a Writ of venditioni exponas to me directed, will be exposed to Public Sale by Vendue, at the premises on SATURDAY the 1st day of April next, at two o'clock in the afternoon, a certain Plantation, Tract or Piece of Land, situate, lying, and being in the township of Oxford in the county of Philadelphia, containing about 189 acres, (5 acres thereof meadows and 30 woodland) within 6 miles of the city of Philadelphia and from the village of Frankfort, being on the road which leads from Frankfort to the old York road, and bounded by lands of Dr. Rush, John Redman, Captain Eves, Frankfort Creek, &c. On said plantation is a large two-story stone house, with four rooms on a floor, a stone kitchen, stone milk house, frame barn, orchard, and a good whetstone quarry, &c. Taken in execution, and sold as the property of Daniel Havartde Travah, by JOSEPH COWPERTHWAIT, sheriff"
(Please see new-notes* on this addition) The proximity of the Rush summer residence may tie into the studies he had done on the Harrogate Mineral Springs located about a half mile away. He published the first American textbook on Chemistry, several volumes on medical student education, and wrote influential patriotic essays. He was active in the Sons of Liberty and was elected to attend the provincial conference to send delegates to the Continental Congress. He consulted Thomas Paine on the writing of the profoundly influential pro-independence pamphlet, Common Sense. He was appointed to represent Pennsylvania and signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1777 he became surgeon-general of the middle department of the Continental Army. Conflicts with the Army Medical service, specifically with Dr. William Shippen, Jr., led to Rush's resignation. As General George Washington suffered a series of defeats in the war, Rush campaigned for his removal, as part of the Conway Cabal, losing his trust and ending Rush's war activities. Rush later regretted his actions against Washington. In a letter to John Adams in 1812, Rush wrote, "He Washington was the highly favored instrument whose patriotism and name contributed greatly to the establishment of the independence of the United States." In 1783 he was appointed to the staff of Pennsylvania Hospital and remained a member of the hospital's staff until his death. He was elected to the Pennsylvania convention which adopted the Federal constitution, and was appointed treasurer of the U.S. Mint, serving from 1797-1813. He became Professor of medical theory and clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania in 1791, though the quality of his medicine was quite primitive even for the time: he advocated bleeding (for almost any illness) long after its practice had declined. He became a social activist, an abolitionist, and was the most well-known physician in America at the time of his death. He was also founder of the private liberal arts college Dickinson College, in Carlisle, PA.
Constitutional ideas

Rush believed that Americans should enshrine the right to medical freedom in their United States Constitution, much as the right to freedom of religion is expressly guaranteed in that document. Rush is reported to have argued that "Unless we put Medical Freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship . . . to restrict the art of healing to one class of men, and deny equal privilege to others, will be to constitute the Bastille of Medical Science. All such laws are un-American and despotic and have no place in a Republic ... The Constitution of this Republic should make special privilege for Medical Freedom as well as Religious Freedom." Also he urged Thomas Paine to write a book that strongly pushed revolution and suggested its title ," Common Sense."
Corps of discovery

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis to Philadelphia to prepare for the Lewis and Clark Expedition under the tutelage of Benjamin Rush, who taught Lewis about frontier illnesses, including how to perform bloodletting. Rush provided the corps with a medical kit that included:
  • Ottoman Empire opium for nervousness,
  • emetics to induce vomiting,
  • medicine wine and
  • fifty dozen of Dr. Rush's Bilious Pills. These pills were laxatives made of more than 50% mercury (element), which the corps called "thunderclappers". Their meat-rich diet and lack of clean water during the expedition gave the men cause to use the pills frequently. The pills' efficacy is questionable, but the high mercury content provided an excellent tracer for archaeologists trying to determine the corps' actual route to the Pacific.
    Controversial theories

    Rush was an advocate of forced psychiatric treatment. According to historian of psychiatry Thomas Szasz, one of Rush's favorite methods of treatment was to tie a patient to a board and spin it at a rapid speed until all the blood went to the head.http://www.buildfreedom.com/tl/tl05t.shtml He placed his own son in one of his hospitals for 27 years, until he died. Rush also believed that being black was a hereditary illness which he referred to as "negroidism"; further, he believed that since it was merely a skin condition slavery and racial discrimination should be abolished.
    Contributions to medicine

    Rush was far ahead of his time in the treatment of mental illness. In fact, he is considered the "Father of American Psychiatry", publishing the first textbook on the subject in the United States, Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind (1812). Rush was also an advocate of insane asylums, believing that with proper treatment mental diseases could be cured. An Asylum was even constructed in the area of his birthplace (See Philadelphia State Hospital). The emblem of the American Psychiatric Association bears his portrait. Benjamin Rush was also responsible for the invention of the idea of addiction. Prior to his work, drunkenness was viewed as being sinful, and a matter of choice. Rush introduced the idea that the Alcoholism loses control over himself, and identified the properties of alcohol, rather than the alcoholic's choice, as the causal agent. He developed the conception of addiction as a form of medical disease, and finally developed the idea that abstinence is the only cure for addiction. Besides his contributions to psychiatry, Benjamin Rush wrote a descriptive account of the yellow fever epidemic that struck Philadelphia in 1793 (during which he treated up to 100 patients per day), and what is considered to be the first case report on dengue fever (published in 1789 on a case from 1780). Rush lived during the Age of Heroic Medicine (1780-1850), and is considered a strong advocate of “heroic medicine”. During his career, he educated over 3000 medical students, and several of these established Rush Medical College (Chicago) in his honor after his death.
    Religious views and vision

    He is generally deemed Presbyterianism, and was a founder of the Philadelphia Bible society.http://www.adherents.com/people/pr/Benjamin_Rush.html He was an advocate for Christianity in public life and in particular in education. In line with that he advocated Scriptures as a text­book in the public schools.http://www.benjaminrush.com/ That stated he may have had Universalist Church of America leanings, as the following quote on education seems to imply.http://www.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/benjaminrush.html It states, "Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Muhammad inculcated upon our youth, than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place, is that of the New Testament."http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch18s30.html

    Levine, Harry G. The Discovery of Addiction: Changing Conceptions of Habitual Drunkenness in America. Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 1978; 15: pp: 493-506. Also available at: http://www.soc.qc.cuny.edu/Staff/levine/doa.htm

    Courtesy of: http://www.wikipedia.org/

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