Benjamin Rush should serve as an inspiration to everyone. This signer of the Declaration of Independence was born on January 4, 1746. When most medical professionals were selling people flavored liquor as medicine, he graduated from the University of New Jersey, now Princeton University, at 14 and went to Scotland, where he earned his medical doctor’s degree in 1768.
Writer of First American Chemistry Book
Returning to the United States, he became a professor at the College of Philadelphia, now the University of Pennsylvania, where he published the first American chemistry textbook and several medical books. While teaching, he regularly practiced medicine. At a time when black people were seen as property who were not entitled to medical care, he regularly went into their homes to treat them, and he became a strong advocate for public sanitation. During the American Revolutionary War, he became the surgeon general and staunchly opposed George Washington’s war efforts.
Writer of First Mental Health Textbook
After the war, Rush was appointed to the staff of the Pennsylvania Hospital. In 1812, he published “Medical Inquiries and Observations, Upon the Diseases of the Mind,” the first mental health textbook published in America. It was also the first to classify different mental health conditions. Furthermore, he was the first to see mental health conditions as illnesses and not the result of a sinful nature. For his work in the field, he is considered the Father of Psychiatry.
Father of Occupational Therapy and Animal Advocate
Rush was never content to rest on the work he had already accomplished, even though he educated over 3,000 medical students. Many of these students went on to change American medicine in the early 1800s. He trained Lewis and Clark’s expedition members on medical care and frontier illnesses. While working at the hospital, he noted that those with a job recovered from their conditions faster than those idle. He is sometimes seen as the Father of Occupational Therapy for his work in this area. Furthermore, Rush’s work was also instrumental in forming the first veterinary school in America.
Let Rush Inspire You
While Rush died in 1745, his work started many great things in America. While it was not always accepted immediately, people soon began to understand that he advocated for a better way of life for people and animals.
We encourage you to become an advocate for advancing mental health in your community today!