chapter  16
Benjamin Rush (1746-1813)
Pages 3

With just cause, much has been written about a man who was the most radical of American patriots, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a leading propo­ nent in ratifying the federal Constitution and a cofounder of the first American anti-slavery society. When not consumed with the dynamic political landscape that typified our nation’s infancy, Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) served tirelessly as an advocate for many social reforms including temperance, womens rights, and hu­ mane treatment of the mentally ill. Incredibly, Dr. Rush, eulogized as the American Hippocrates,1 was equally adorned and accomplished in political and social science. However, while history has judged his noble and farsighted efforts in such arenas as womens education and the abolition of slavery with great appreciation, his medical legacy is marked with tremendous controversy. Should we revere Rush as a brave, humane, and pioneering physician, or were his blatandy ascientific theories and detrimentally heroic practices unworthy of the tide of the American Hippocrates?