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Benjamin Rush

Male 1746 - 1813  (67 years)    Has 2 ancestors and one descendant in this family tree.

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  • Name Benjamin Rush 
    Birth 4 Jan 1746  Byberry Township, Pennsylvania, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Prominent People Founding Father USA 
    Death 19 Apr 1813  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Burial Christ Church Burying Ground Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I363630  Geneagraphie
    Links To This person is also Benjamin Rush at Wikipedia 
    Last Modified 7 Feb 2003 

    Father John Rush   d. 1752 
    Mother Susanna Hall   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Family ID F144435  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Julia Stockton   d. Yes, date unknown 
    • thirteen children
     1. Richard Rush,   b. 1797   d. Yes, date unknown
    Family ID F144083  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 22 Jan 2002 

  • Event Map Click to hide
    Link to Google MapsDeath - 19 Apr 1813 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Link to Google Earth
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  • Notes 
    • a Delegate from Pennsylvania; educated under private tutors and at a private school in Nottingham, Md.; was graduated from Princeton College in 1760; studied medicine in Philadelphia, Edinburgh, London, and Paris, and commenced practice in Philadelphia in August 1769; held several professorships in the Philadelphia Medical College; Member of the Continental Congress in 1776 and 1777; a signer of the Declaration of Independence; entered the Revolutionary Army as surgeon general of the Middle Department in April 1777; made physician general in July 1777; resigned in February 1778; resumed the practice of medicine; delegate to the Pennsylvania ratification convention, 1787; founder of the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia; president of the Philadelphia Medical Society; vice president and one of the founders of the Philadelphia Bible Society; one of the founders of Dickinson College at Carlisle, Pa.; assisted in the establishment of the Philadelphia dispensary in 1786; treasurer of the United States Mint at Philadelphia from 1799 until his death in that city

      When he was eight, he entered an academy conducted by his uncle, Samuel Finley (later president of Princeton) at Nottingham, Maryland, where he made such progress that on entering Princeton five years later he was admitted to the junior class; he graduated in 1760 when he was not quite fifteen.

      Although of a pious nature, he did not think he would make a good minister. President Davies was inclined to think he should
      take up the law, but his uncle, Dr. Finley, persuaded him to study medicine with Dr. John Redmond in Philadelphia. He served an apprenticeship with Dr. Redmond for almost six years and attended the first lectures of Dr. John Morgan and Dr. William Shippen, Jr. 1754 in the newly formed medical department of the College of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania).

      In the summer of 1766, when he was twenty, he sat up every night for several weeks with Dr. Finley, then president of the
      College, during his last illness, and ``finally performed the distressing office of closing his eyes.'' That fall he went to Edinburgh, Scotland, then the medical center of the world, where after two years of study, and some heroic experiments with emetics on his own person for his doctoral thesis on the digestion of food in the stomach, received his M.D. degree.

      While in Scotland he rendered his alma mater an incalculable service, when in cooperation with Richard Stockton, a trustee, he persuaded John Witherspoon to come to America as Princeton's president. Stockton's authority and dignity were indispensable to the mission, but it was Rush's confident, audacious, and engaging youth that won the day. From Edinburgh,
      twenty-one-year-old Rush wrote forty-four-year-old Witherspoon ``your talents have been in some measure buried, but at
      Princeton they will be called into action, and the evening of your life will be much more effulgent than your brightest meridian
      days have been.'' When Witherspoon felt obliged to decline because of his wife's fear of leaving home -- the very mention of
      going to America made her physically ill -- Rush asked Witherspoon ``And must poor Nassau Hall be ruined?'' and ``Will you then suffer your sun to set so soon?'' A little later he urged Witherspoon to reconsider the Princeton invitation and offered to help him make another appeal to his wife. Soon, on Witherspoon's invitation, Rush spent several days with the Witherspoons at their home in Paisley. Shortly afterward a friend of Witherspoon wrote to Richard Stockton in Princeton that ``to Mr. Witherspoon's great satisfaction, his wife has at last given a calm hearing to Mr. Rush, argued the Matter with him, and received a satisfying Answer to all her objections; so that now she is willing if the Doctor is rechosen . . . to go with him without Grudge.'' Witherspoon was re-elected in due course and he and Mrs. Witherspoon came to America in August 1768.

      Rush spent the following year in London, where he attended medical lectures, and in Paris. In London he was on friendly terms with Benjamin Franklin, and at Benjamin West's dined with Sir Joshua Reynolds, who in turn had him to dinner with Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith. In Paris he met Diderot, who gave him a letter of introduction to David Hume.

      Soon after his return home Rush was appointed to a chair of chemistry in the College of Philadelphia's medical department, thus becoming at the age of twenty-three the first professor of chemistry in America. He built up a large private practice, at first among the poor, but he found time to further other interests. He published a pamphlet on the iniquity of the slave trade, and helped organize the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, the first antislavery society in America; he later became its president. In the growing quarrel between the colonies and the mother country, he associated with such leaders as Thomas Paine, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. It was on his urging that Thomas Paine wrote a strong tract on behalf of complete American independence to which he gave the title, suggested by Rush, Common Sense.

      In the summer of 1775 while visiting President Witherspoon and Richard Stockton in Princeton, he met Stockton's
      sixteen-year-old daughter, Julia. The following January, a few days after his thirtieth birthday, he and Julia were married by the Reverend President Witherspoon. Less than seven months later, the bridegroom, who had been elected a delegate to the
      Continental Congress from Pennsylvania, joined his father-in-law and Dr. Witherspoon, both delegates from New Jersey, in
      signing the Declaration of Independence.

      While Surgeon-General of the Middle Department of the Army during the Revolution, Rush became outraged by the conditions he found in army hospitals and, failing to get the remedial action he sought from the director general, Dr. Shippen (his former teacher), he sent a protest to General Washington, accusing Dr. Shippen of maladministration. Washington referred the protest to Congress, which ruled in favor of Shippen, and Rush resigned his commission. Rush lost confidence in Washington's ability and became associated indirectly with the Conway cabal to replace him; later he deeply regretted this action, and supported Washington politically.

      Returning to Philadelphia, Rush resumed his practice, his teaching, and his humanitarian endeavors. At the medical school of the College of Philadelphia, he added courses on the theory and practice of medicine to his lectures in chemistry, and became the most admired teacher of medicine in Philadelphia, then the medical center of America. All told, he taught more than three
      thousand medical students, who carried his influence to every corner of the growing nation.

      Rush founded the Philadelphia Dispensary for the relief of the poor, the first of its kind in the United States, and for many years gave it hours of service without pay. He also founded Dickinson College, was one of the charter trustees of Franklin College (later Franklin and Marshall), and -- being persuaded of the importance of removing ``the present disparity which subsists between the sexes in the degrees of their education and knowledge'' -- became an ardent incorporator of the Young Ladies Academy in Philadelphia.

      He worked heroically during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793; although he was severely censured for his stubborn reliance on bloodletting, his account of the epidemic published the following year won him recognition by several European learned

      His greatest contributions to medical science were the reforms he instituted in the care of the mentally ill during his thirty years of service as a senior physician at the Pennsylvania Hospital. In the words of one of his biographers, Dr. Carl Binger, a
      psychiatrist, ``he took on heroic stature,'' substituting kindness and compassion for cruelty, and replacing routine reliance on
      archaic procedures by careful clinical observation and study. The year before he died, he published Medical Inquiries and
      Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind, the first textbook on psychiatry in America, which Dr. Binger called ``the crowning achievement of his professional life.''

      Benjamin and Julia Rush had thirteen children; one of them, Richard Rush 1797, served as cabinet officer or ambassador under four presidents.

      In 1837 some of Rush's former students founded a medical college in Chicago, which they named for him. The American
      Psychiatric Association, whose official seal bears Rush's portrait, placed a bronze plaque at his grave in Philadelphia in 1965,
      designating him the ``Father of American Psychiatry.''

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