Birthday: January 4, 1746
Died At Age: 67
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Benjamin Rush
Born in: Philadelphia
Quotes By Benjamin Rush
Spouse/Ex-: Julia Stockton
father: John Rush
mother: Susanna Rush
children: James Rush, Richard Rush
Died on: April 19, 1813
place of death: Philadelphia
U.S. State: Pennsylvania
Founder/Co-Founder: American psychiatry, Dickinson College
education: Princeton University, University of Edinburgh, West Nottingham Academy,
Benjamin Rush was one of the major political leaders who participated in the American Revolution and signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776. A physician by profession, he was also an educator and writer. He was one of the leading figures of the intellectual American Enlightenment period along with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. He believed in freedom for all and was a vocal advocate of abolishment of slavery and a supporter of women’s right to higher education. As a physician, he was very well respected and he worked towards bringing better health and hygiene facilities to the common people. He was the first doctor of his era to conduct pioneering work in the field of psychiatry, thereby earning the title, ‘"Father of American Psychiatry". Having a deep interest in political affairs, he actively participated in Sons of Liberty in Philadelphia. He was elected a delegate of the Continental congress as a representative of Pennsylvania and he signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence on 2 August 1776. He also helped Thomas Paine in writing the much celebrated ‘Common Sense’ which was a pamphlet in support of an independent America. Along with his contribution to medicine, he is also known for the social reforms he campaigned for.
Childhood & Early Life
Benjamin Rush was born in Philadelphia to to John Rush and Susanna Harvey. His father was a farmer turned gunsmith who died when Benjamin was just five or six years of age.
His mother moved with her children to Philadelphia in 1751 and operated a grocery store to support the family.
Young Benjamin and his brother were sent to live with his uncle, Rev. Dr. Samuel Finley, so that they could get a proper education. Under his uncle’s guidance he attended the Nottingham Academy.
He enrolled at the College of New Jersey in 1759 and graduated with an arts degree in 1760 when he was hardly 15.
In 1761, he became an apprentice of Dr. John Redman and studied under him till 1766. During this period he also got the opportunity to meet eminent physicians like John Morgan and William Shippen, Jr.
He went to Scotland in 1766 to pursue his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh and earned his Doctor of Medicine in 1768. He spent the rest of the year traveling to hospitals in London and Paris.
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He returned to Philadelphia in 1769 and opened a medical practice. He also got appointed as professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia.
While holding his teaching job, he wrote several articles on medical issues and published his first textbook on chemistry ‘A Syllabus of a Course of Lectures on Chemistry’. Being a nationalist, he also wrote numerous essays on patriotic issues.
During the early 1770’s he enthusiastically participated in the activities of Sons of Liberty, a group of American patriots.
He helped Thomas Paine in editing and publishing his seminal pamphlet ‘Common Sense’ which was published anonymously in January 1776. The pamphlet was published during the beginning of the American Revolution and presented a case for seeking freedom form the colonial rule.
In July 1776, he was elected as a delegate of the Continental Congress to represent Pennsylvania and he signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence on 2 August 1776.
In 1777, he accepted a position as a Surgeon General of the Continental Army and tended to wounded soldiers in the battles. But he grew increasingly dissatisfied with the management of the Army Medical service under Dr. William Shippen which led to a slew of political issues between the two. Disillusioned, he resigned in 1778.
He resumed his teaching career by lecturing at the University of the State of Pennsylvania in 1780.
He founded the Dickinson College in Pennsylvania in 1783, and Franklin College in Lancaster in 1787.
He became a surgeon at the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1784 and served there till his death. He treated patients with psychiatric disorders and campaigned for a more humane treatment of mental patients.
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He was chosen as the president of the Philadelphia medical society and in 1786 he established the Philadelphia Dispensary to provide free medical care to poor patients.
He continued his medical and teaching career till his death in 1813.
His book ‘A Syllabus of a Course of Lectures on Chemistry’ (1770) was the first American chemistry textbook.
He published another very significant book, ‘Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind’ in 1812 which established him as the "father of American psychiatry".
He was one of the 56 signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. He represented Pennsylvania and signed on 2 August 1776.
He was an active social reformist who provided free medical care to poor patients, advocated for women’s rights, and founded many colleges to further the cause of higher education.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Julia Stockton, the daughter of lawyer Richard Stockton, in 1776. The couple had 13 children of whom four died in their infancy.
He contracted typhus fever and died in 1813 at the age of 68.
The American Medical Association erected his bronze statue, known as the Rush Monument, on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Museum of Hygiene and Medical School in Washington in 1904 in a gesture to honour his memory.
The Dickinson College, Pennsylvania, which he had founded, presents The Benjamin Rush Award to honour outstanding achievement by a member of the business or government community. The first award was given in 1985.
He was fluent in many languages like English, Spanish, French and Italian.
His father-in-law was also a signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
He was strongly opposed to capital punishment.
He was deeply religious and helped found the African Methodist Episcopal Church.