Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dr. Benjamin Rush (December 24, 1745–April 19, 1813) was a Founding Father of the United States. Rush lived in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania and was a physician, writer, educator, and humanitarian. He also was a signer of the 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 and founded Dickinson College. Despite having a wide influence on the development of American government, 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 Byberry, around 12 miles from Philadelphia. 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 Philadelphia, and then obtained a medical degree at Edinburgh University. While in Europe practicing medicine, he learned French, Italian, and Spanish. Returning to the 13 colonies in 1769, Rush opened a medical practice in Philadelphia and became Professor of Chemistry at the College of Philadelphia.
He published the first American textbook on Chemistry, 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 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, led to Rush's resignation.
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
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:
- Turkish opium for nervousness,
- emetics to induce vomiting,
- medicinal wine and
- fifty dozen of Dr. Rush's Bilious Pills.
These pills were laxatives made of more than 50% mercury, 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 they did provide an excellent tracer for archaeologists trying to determine the corps' actual route to the Pacific.
Unfortunately, Rush was also 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. 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. Today Rush's likeness illustrates the emblem of the American Psychiatric Association, a tribute to his efforts to medicalize what is considered insanity.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details