His father died when Ben 6 years old. Young Benjamin was sent to a boarding school in Maryland. Then to Princeton. Graduated after ONE YEAR! (at the age of 15!)
Studied medicine in Philadelphia for 6 years. Then to Edinburgh , Scotland. Received his MD after 2 years.
He returned to Philadelphia to practice medicine, elected professor of chemistry in the college of Philadelphia.
A strong advocate of, “bleeding,” for nearly any malady even though most doctors of the day had dismissed the practice. In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic nearly wiped out Philadelphia. In addition to bleeding, he prescribed calomel and jalap, after reading about them in a book given to him by Benjamin Franklin. He had great success. More, he did not keep this knowledge to himself but shared with doctors, even pharmacists. Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, the medical establishment attacked him and his methods.
He didn't see independence from England as did most of the Declaration's signers. Instead of commerce, or military might, he considered first and foremost the freedom to experiment. To learn. To share knowledge.
He tended to the wounded during the war. But in a dispute with another physician, he resigned after one year. He also spent the war trying to get George Washington fired as commander in chief! Rush later, expressed regret for his actions against Washington. In a letter to John Adams in 1812, Rush wrote, "He [Washington] was the highly favored instrument whose patriotism and name contributed greatly to the establishment of the independence of the United States.
He attended the constitutional convention. He called the federal government a, “masterpiece of human wisdom.”
Appointed by President John Adams to the post of treasurer for the U.S. mint.
He was the principal agent in founding Dickinson College, in Carlisle, PA. For some years, he was president of the society for the abolition of slavery, and, also, of the Philadelphia Medical Society. He was a founder of the Philadelphia Bible Society, and one of its vice presidents. Ben was also a vice president of the American Philosophical Society.
Dr. Rush purchased a slave in 1776. He still owned this slave when he joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1784. (Go figure)
Rush may be more famous today as the man who helped reconcile the friendship of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams by encouraging the two former Presidents to resume writing to each other. He wrote to Adams: “Some talked, some wrote, and some fought to promote and establish it, but you and Mr. Jefferson thought for us all. I never take a retrospect of the years 1775 and 1776 without associating your opinions and speeches and conversations with all the great political, moral, and intellectual achievements of the Congress of those memorable years.“