Dr Benjamin Rush

Dr Benjamin Rush

Byberry, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 19 Apr 1813 (aged 67)
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Burial Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 915 · View Source
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Declaration of Independence Signer. His father died when he was six, and his mother placed him in the care of his maternal uncle Dr. Finley who became his teacher and advisor for many years. In 1759 he attended the College of Philadelphia, where he attained a Bachelor of Arts degree. He continued his education with a Dr. Redman of Philadelphia for four years. He also attained a B.A. at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) and a M.D. at the University of Edinburgh (Physician). He spent several years in Europe studying and practicing medicine, French, Italian, Spanish, and science. He returned in 1769, opened a private practice in Philadelphia, and was appointed Professor of Chemistry at the College of Philadelphia. He practiced medicine extensively amongst the poor. His practice was successful; his classes at the university were popular. He began to engage in writing that would prove to be of considerable importance to the emerging nation. Rush published the first American textbook on Chemistry. In 1773 he contributed editorial essays to the papers about the Patriot cause. He joined the American Philosophical Society. Rush was active in the Sons of Liberty in Philadelphia during that time. On January 2, 1776, he married Julia Stockton, daughter of fellow Signer, Richard Stockton. In June of 1776 he was elected to attend the provincial conference to send delegates to the Continental Congress. He was appointed to represent Philadelphia that year and so signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1777 he was appointed surgeon-general of the middle department of the Continental Army. As the war continued and Army forces under General Washington suffered a series of defeats, Rush secretly campaigned for removal of Washington as commander in chief, and went so far as to write an anonymous letter to then Governor Patrick Henry of Virginia. He was caught in the act and confronted by Washington, at which point he bowed out of any activities related to the war. In 1789 he wrote in Philadelphia newspapers in favor of adopting the Federal constitution. He was then elected to the Pennsylvania convention that adopted that constitution. He was appointed treasurer of the United States Mint where he served from 1797 to 1813. He became the Professor of medical theory and clinical practice at the consolidated University of Pennsylvania in 1791, where he was a popular figure at the height of his influence in medicine and in social circles. He was also a social activist, a prominent advocate for the abolition of slavery, an advocate for scientific education for the masses, including women, and for public medical clinics to treat the poor. He called for the restriction of alcohol and tobacco use, proposed the study of veterinary medicine, and wrote the first American textbook on psychiatry. One of his primary interests was yellow fever, a disease he battled in Philadelphia during the epidemic of 1793-94. He published his observations and his suggestions for the prevention of the disease in 1794. A pioneer in the study and treatment of mental illness, Rush insisted that the insane had a right to be treated with respect. He protested the inhuman accommodation and treatment of the insane at Pennsylvania Hospital. When he received an inadequate response to his complaints from the hospital's Board of Managers, Rush took his case to the public at large. In 1792 he was successful in getting state funding for a ward for the insane. In 1813 Rhe died suddenly after a brief illness. He was buried in the graveyard of Christ's Church in Philadelphia, the same church whose pastor had christened him 67 years earlier. On learning of his death Jefferson wrote Adams: "Another of our friends of seventy-six is gone, my dear Sir, another of the co-signers of the Independence of our country. And a better man than Rush could not have left us, more benevolent, more learned, of finer genius, or more honest." Adams, grief-stricken, wrote in reply, "I know of no Character living or dead, who has done more real good in America." The year before he died, he published Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind, the first textbook on psychiatry in America. 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.''

Bio by: K M

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 915
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dr Benjamin Rush (24 Dec 1745–19 Apr 1813), Find a Grave Memorial no. 915, citing Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .