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The Benjamin Rush Portal Project

A Rush-Curious Collaboration

Inspired by “Rush: Revolution, Madness & the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father” by Stephen Fried (UPenn Class of 1979)

Collaborators:

  • UPenn Libraries: Biomedical Library & Kislak Special Collections
  • Library Company of Philadelphia
  • Massachusetts Historical Society: Lyman Butterfield Collection
  • Duke University Special Collections
  • Princeton University Press
  • Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries
  • American Philosophical Society
  • College of Physicians
  • Founding Content Creators: Barbara Cavanaugh, Mitch Fraas, Stephen Fried
  • Founding Designer: Yen Ho

Founding Designer

From Franklin Catalog

A doctor, a political activist, a Founding Father

Navigate this virtual Benjamin Rush portal, inspired by Stephen Fried’s biography, and see the world through the eyes of America’s Founding Physician. Dive into Dr. Rush’s life from his decision to study medicine to his work at Penn revolutionizing the education of doctors and the care of mental health and addiction

Featured in the portal are the most complete set of links available to Rush’s publications and letters—including the new digitizations of his lecture notes—as well as excerpts from Rush and videos with the author offering a deeper perspective on Rush's life.

Follow Rush’s journey through the earliest days of modern medicine, and join him as an eyewitness the American Revolution, so you’ll meet the world’s founding physicians as well as the country’s Founding Fathers, and explore Rush’s unique friendships with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Witness Rush’s life during the Revolutionary War as a physician and his relationship with George Washington. Learn about Rush’s heroic efforts to help cure the people of Philadelphia during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793. Discover Rush’s passion for understanding and destigmatizing mental health as a staff member at the Pennsylvania Hospital, and the leading teacher at the University of Pennsylvania medical school.

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One of Rush's Lancets

Fun Facts

  • His first patient, as a physician, was named Lydia Hyde. She had the hiccups
  • His last, and most heartbreaking, patient was his own son John 
  • He was stuck in a feud between two doctors: Dr. John Morgan and Dr. William Shippen, Jr.
  • When his mentor Benjamin Franklin died, Rush asked for a lock of his hair
  • He had a lifelong friendship with John Adams
  • Rush reunited John Adams and Thomas Jefferson as friends
  • Had a political feud with Alexander Hamilton, but Rush's son Richard and Hamilton's son Philip maintained a long friendship
  • Rush explored the very political science of gunpowder production for some time, in his role as a chemistry professor
  • During his teen years, he was in love with a woman named Mary "Polly" Fisher; his mother won't let him marry before he starts his career as a doctor; Eventually, he lets her go after he found out that his friend Thomas Bradford was in love with her too
  • He met his future wife, Julia Stockton, when she was an infant
  • "Americans are the sons, not the bastards of Englishmen!" was quoted by William Pitt; It was the quote Rush remembered the most when advocating against the British
  • ​Active member of the Sons of Liberty in Philadelphia  
  • Ninth president William Henry Harrison was Rush's student in chemistry at Penn
  • The Rush Building at Drexel University was named after him
  • Rush Street in Chicago is named after him (so named because of its proximity to Rush Medical College, also named for him, in 1837)

Rediscovering Benjamin Rush, Yellow Fever & the Revolutionary Early Days of Penn Medicine

First Scans from the Rush Digital Project!!

Click on the manuscript below to see the first available scans of Rush’s lecture notes from his courses at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught the first 3000 physicians trained in the US! 

The digitization of this material is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources.

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Benjamin Rush Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale

Benjamin Rush, 1783

"Rush decided to use the portrait to recast himself as a man of letter, science, and philosophy. He was portrayed sitting in his study as a small wooden table, looking up with a half-smile as if just interrupted from writing a sentence -- which reads,

'We come now gentlemen to investigate the cause of earthquakes.'

As for Rush's face, it wasn't the most engaging rendering ever done of him, nor was it as typically animated as Peale's other work. But the painting made Rush appear exactly as he wanted to see himself: as a man of science, philosophy, and literature, surrounded by ideas." (Fried, 261-262)

From Penn Publications

Pieces from the Pennsylvania Gazette about the Rush project and how Penn students participated in the groundbreaking research. Gazette excerpt, Q&A with author, Penn Today story on student participation, Kelly Writers House event (with student researchers) about the project.

A Rush-Curious Collaboration

Inspired by “Rush: Revolution, Madness & the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father” by Stephen Fried (UPenn Class of 1979)

Collaborators:

  • UPenn Libraries: Biomedical Library & Kislak Special Collections
  • Library Company of Philadelphia
  • Massachusetts Historical Society: Lyman Butterfield Collection
  • Duke University Special Collections
  • Princeton University Press
  • Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries
  • American Philosophical Society
  • College of Physicians
  • Founding Content Creators: Barbara Cavanaugh, Mitch Fraas, Stephen Fried
  • Founding Designer: Yen Ho