- NAME: Benjamin Rush
- OCCUPATION: Academic, Doctor, Political Leader, Writer
- BIRTH DATE: January 04, 1746
- DEATH DATE: April 19, 1813
- Did You Know?: Benjamin Rush is often dubbed the "Father of American Psychiatry."
- EDUCATION: Princeton University, Edinburgh University
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Byberry Township, Pennsylvania
- PLACE OF DEATH: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Full Name: Benjamin Rush
- Nickname: Father of American Psychiatry
Best Known For
Benjamin Rush is best known for his political activities during the American Revolution, including signing the Declaration of Independence.
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Benjamin Rush was born on January 4, 1746, just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rush studied at Princeton University and then went on for a medical degree at Edinburgh University. He subsequently returned to Philadelphia to begin his medical practice and pursue publishing. A member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Rush also founded Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He died on April 19, 1813.
“Controversy is only dreaded by the advocates of error”
One of seven children, Benjamin Rush was born in Byberry Township, outside of Philadelphia, on January 4, 1746. Rush's father died when Rush was 6 years old, and Rush was soon put under the tutelage of his uncle, Reverend Samuel Finley. Finley would later be president of the College of New Jersey, which would eventually become Princeton University.
Intending to pursue a career as a lawyer, Rush attended the College of New Jersey and received his B.A. in 1760, when he was but 14 years old. Changing paths quickly, however, he moved to Philadelphia and began training as a physician. Here he came under the influence of the leading minds in the medical field, such as John Redman and William Shippen Jr.
Redman saw potential in Rush and urged him to go to Scotland, a hive of developing medical knowledge, and Rush went on to earn his M.D. from the University of Edinburgh. His subsequent travels across Europe brought Benjamin Franklin to his acquaintance, and the two men would remain lifelong friends.
In 1769, when Rush returned to Philadelphia, he opened his medical practice and was appointed as chair of chemistry in the medical department of the College of Philadelphia, thereby making him the first professor of chemistry in America, at the young age of 23. Rush also kept busy outside of medicine, publishing a tract on the evils of the slave trade and helping organize the first anti-slavery society in America, the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.
Rush also became active in the colonies' struggle for independence and was a major influence on Thomas Paine in the writing of his classic text on American independence, Common Sense.
Rush officially went down in U.S. history as a founding father when he became one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and he carried his medical knowledge with him through the war effort as surgeon general of the Middle Department of the army.
After the war, Rush returned to his medical practice and taught at the University of Pennsylvania. In all, Rush is said to have taught 3,000 medical students, doctors who went on to establish the medical profession in the United States. In 1783 he also chartered the first college in the newly formed United States, Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Rush is also known for his efforts to reform care given to the mentally ill, and he eschewed many primitive contemporary "treatments" in favor of careful clinical observation and study.
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They are American icons—they're on our dollars and coins, they are the subject of our monuments, and we live our daily lives in the world their ideas helped create. America's Founding Fathers include George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and, of course, Benjamin Franklin. These men, together with several other key players of their time, structured the American democracy and left a legacy that has shaped the world. But beyond their legends, these men were human beings who led complex and fascinating lives. Learning their stories helps us better understand what made them tick, as well as their influence on our world today.
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