Rush, Benjamin

Rush, Benjamin (1745-1813), an American physician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Rush's writings on medicine and on social reforms made him the leading doctor in America in his day.

Rush was born near Philadelphia. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) and received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1768. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War Rush was professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia (an early name for the University of Pennsylvania). He served briefly as surgeon general of the Continental armies.

After the war Rush resumed teaching. He was a member of the convention that framed the United States Constitution, and was a member of the Pennsylvania legislature that ratified the Constitution. From 1797 to 1813 he served as treasurer of the United States Mint.

Rush established the first free medical dispensary in the United States, in 1786. He was a pioneer in the field of experimental physiology and, for his time, showed an unusual understanding of mental illness.