From the beginning of his medical career in the early 1770s, Benjamin Rush had medical apprentices, many of whom went on to be well-known physicians. The best (and so far only) list of his apprentices was published in 1946 by Revolutionary War medical historian James E. Gibson. It’s an important resource to verify who was apprenticed to Rush and who wasn’t because some physicians (or their biographers) have falsely claimed this relationship with the founding father of American medicine.
The most damaging false claim came from posthumous biographers of infamous racist Southern physician Samuel Cartwright, who is often identified as a former student or apprentice to Rush when he was neither; there is no evidence Cartwright ever knew or studied with Rush, nor did he attend Penn. He was, however, a protege of one of Rush’s least favorite and most controversial students, Charles Caldwell who, when he couldn’t get the positions he wanted in Philadelphia, moved to Kentucky and at two different medical schools expounded his appalling racist medical ideas--which were the opposite of Rush’s. For more on this see this 2018 Journal of Southern History paper by Christopher Willoughby.
For the first time it is possible to read almost all of Rush’s medical school lectures, as thousands of pages of his hand-written lecture notes have been digitized by Penn for the “For the Health of the New Nation” initiative, an effort organized by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) and funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). These notes have not yet been annotated, but below you will find a basic tool to access the more than 200 hand-written volumes. We also provide links to Rush’s sixteen years of Introductory Lectures to the medical school year, in chronological order.
|Lecture Title||Rush MSS #||Date|
|Lectures on the institutes of physic by William Cullen, M.D., Professor of Medicine in the University of Edinburgh||Vol. 93-95|
|Notes by Benjamin Rush for lectures at the Young Ladies' Academy in Philadelphia||Vol. 108||October 1787|
|Notes by Benjamin Rush on lectures on the practice of physic, began 1/4/1788||Vol. 109||1788-1789|
|Lecture notes by Benjamin Rush on the practice of medicine||Vol. 110-120||1791|
|Lecture notes by Benjamin Rush on Therapeuticks sic.||Vol. 129-132|
|Lecture notes by Benjamin Rush on the Principles of the materia medica.||Vol. 133-134|
|Lecture notes by Benjamin Rush on Pathology:||Vol. 143-146|
|Lecture notes by Benjamin Rush on Pathology||Vol. 153-162||1808|
|Lecture notes by Benjamin Rush on Physiology||Vol. 164-168|
|Lecture notes by Benjamin Rush on Sleep.||Vol. 170-172|
|Lecture notes by Benjamin Rush on Fevers||Vol. 192-193|
|Lecture notes by Benjamin Rush on Fevers||Vol. 207-210|