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Bookhammer, R.S. (1967). Revolutionary Doctor. Benjamin Rush 1746–1813: By Carl Binger, M. D. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1966. 326 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 36:608-609.
(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:608-609
Revolutionary Doctor. Benjamin Rush 1746–1813: By Carl Binger, M. D. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1966. 326 pp.
Review by: Robert S. Bookhammer
The official emblem of the American Psychiatric Association adopted in 1921 incorporates a copy of an engraving by William Haines of the subject of this biography. It has appeared on the cover of each issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry since July 1933. Of its fifteen thousand members, one wonders how many know much of the man whose likeness looks out at them each month.
For those who knew him not, this work presents an unequaled opportunity to make his acquaintance. For those who 'know' him, this work presents a delightful opportunity to renew friendship with an amazing and vigorous man of his age; a contemporary of Washington, Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson, a patriot and humanitarian, and the author of the first textbook on mental diseases published in this country.
Born in the outskirts of what is now Northeast Philadelphia and buried in Christ Church Burial Ground in a grave near that of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush lived a life of devotion to philanthropic causes: abolition, temperance, independence for the colonies, equal education for women, and, in his later years, the humane care of the mentally ill. He is remembered today as the father of American psychiatry.
Dr. Binger, with winning style, sketches the background of the times in which Rush lived; life in colonial Philadelphia, life in Edinburgh where Rush studied medicine, life in London and Paris where Rush visited before returning to America, life during the Revolution when Rush was a military surgeon. He reintroduces us to the early struggles of the new nation and to the medical teaching and practice of the eighteenth century. His dramatic account of the yellow fever epidemic of 1783 and the subsequent controversies in which Rush was involved is graphically presented. Two chapters are devoted to Rush as physician to the mentally ill in the wards of the Pennsylvania Hospital. Here too, the background material is excellent in description and documentation.
Many have written about Benjamin Rush, but none so engagingly as Carl Binger. His acknowledgments and introduction give an understanding of why this is so. With admirable restraint, Dr.
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