Stephen Fried's book RUSH: Revolution, Madness & the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father comes to paperback in September thanks to Broadway Books ...
One of the grandest stories of America’s founding has, for more than two centuries, been hiding in plain sight. In RUSH: Revolution, Madness & the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father, New York Times bestselling author and journalist Stephen Fried brings to light the life of Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of our nation’s most provocative, broadly influential, and shockingly overlooked Founding Fathers.
A finalist for the George Washington Book Prize, RUSH was featured by “CBS This Morning,” NPR “Weekend Edition,” The New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Museum of the American Revolution upon hardcover publication last fall. Since then, it is no coincidence renewed interest in Dr. Rush has spread: his papers are being digitized for the first time, and the primary collection of his writing, out of print since 1951, has been republished.
Thanks to a trove of letters, images, and personal writings, many published for the first time in RUSH, Fried reveals the truth in what John Adams once wrote about his closest friend, “I know of no Character living or dead who has done more real good in America.” As a thirty-year-old doctor, Rush was one of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration and one of the first Sons of Liberty in Philadelphia. His anonymous writings helped inspire the Boston Tea Party. He encouraged Thomas Paine, a bookstore acquaintance, to write Common Sense, and edited the entire pamphlet. He was also personal confidant and medical adviser to Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Adams, becoming uniquely close to the Revolution’s leading men.
As a doctor, Rush became known as the “American Hippocrates” for transforming medical training and institutions, as well as for revolutionizing our understanding and treatment of mental illness and addiction. He left his pregnant wife and his congressional seat to treat patients at six major Revolutionary War battles, often behind enemy lines, later becoming a surgeon general of Washington’s army and innovating new standards of care. Yet his medicine is only part of his legacy. From improbable beginnings as the son of a Philadelphia blacksmith, Rush grew into an internationally renowned writer and reformer, a fierce progressive agitator who championed public education and opposed prejudice by race, religion or gender, even as his convictions threatened his name and career, time and again. He was a prolific opponent of slavery, though it cost him dearly in friends and patrons, and even as he was credited with saving his city from a deadly yellow fever epidemic, he found himself targeted by partisan media in a fight that ended in one of the nation’s first libel trials.
While Rush crops up in every Founding Father biography as an eyewitness and narrator, and is celebrated in the medical community as the most influential physician and public health writer in America’s first decades, the dots between his contributions haven’t been connected in large part because those best positioned to tell the whole story wanted it silenced. Adams and Jefferson each instructed their correspondence with Rush to be hidden, fearing what the release of such intimate dialogues, threaded with controversial ideas, would reveal about them. Rush’s family was also cautious, so much so that the true depth of his contributions has remained buried in archives and private collections—until now. With RUSH, Fried resurrects the most significant Founding Father we’ve never heard of, installing Dr. Benjamin Rush in the pantheon of great American leaders.
About the Author:
STEPHEN FRIED is an award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author who teaches at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Pennsylvania. He is, most recently, the author of the historical biography Appetite for America and the coauthor, with Congressman Patrick Kennedy, of A Common Struggle. His earlier books include the biography Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia and the investigative books Bitter Pills and The New Rabbi. A two-time winner of the National Magazine Award, Fried has written frequently for Vanity Fair, GQ, Smithsonian, The Washington Post Magazine, Glamour, Rolling Stone, and Philadelphia magazine. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, author Diane Ayres, not far from where Rush lived.
RUSH: Revolution, Madness, and the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father
by Stephen Fried is published in paperback on 3rd September.