Rush: Revolution, Madness and the Visionary Doctor who Became a Founding Father

Crown. Sept. 2018. 608p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780804140065. $30;ebk. ISBN 9780804140072. BIOG
Fried (journalism, Columbia Univ. Graduate Sch. of Journalism; Univ. of Pennsylvania) endeavors to resurrect a forgotten Founding Father in this biography of Benjamin Rush (1745–1813), the most renowned physician of his time, whose life and career spanned three critical periods of America's beginnings: Colonial, Revolutionary, and Early Republic. Educated at Edinburgh University's world-renowned medical school, Rush became known as the "American Hippocrates." Like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, whom he counted as intimate friends, Rush exemplified the enlightenment spirit. His curiosity extended beyond medicine into politics, mental health, and public education, and like other enlightenment intellectuals, he put his knowledge into action. Because of his persuasiveness, John Witherspoon left Scotland to accept the presidency of Princeton University. As a Pennsylvania delegate to Congress, Rush signed the Declaration of Independence and later became George Washington's surgeon general during the Revolutionary War. A vociferous opponent of slavery and capital punishment, Rush facilitated the rapprochement between John Adams and Jefferson in their final years.
VERDICT Based extensively on Rush's personal papers and writings, Fried's study succeeds in making a dynamic patriot accessible yet falls short in immersing our imagination in Rush's world.

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