• Rush

  • Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father
  • By: Stephen Fried
  • Narrated by: John H. Mayer
  • Length: 22 hrs and 18 mins

1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $41.95

Buy for $41.95

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

The monumental life of Benjamin Rush, medical pioneer and one of our most provocative and unsung Founding Fathers 

Finalist for the George Washington Book Prize

American Library Association Notable Book of the Year

By the time he was 30, Dr. Benjamin Rush had signed the Declaration of Independence, edited Common Sense, toured Europe as Benjamin Franklin’s protégé, and become John Adams’s confidant, and was soon to be appointed Washington’s surgeon general. And as with the greatest Revolutionary minds, Rush was only just beginning his role in 1776 in the American experiment. As the new republic coalesced, he became a visionary writer and reformer; a medical pioneer whose insights and reforms revolutionized the treatment of mental illness; an opponent of slavery and prejudice by race, religion, or gender; an adviser to, and often the physician of, America’s first leaders; and “the American Hippocrates.” Rush reveals his singular life and towering legacy, installing him in the pantheon of our wisest and boldest Founding Fathers. 

Praise for Rush 

“Entertaining.... Benjamin Rush has been undeservedly forgotten. In medicine...[and] as a political thinker, he was brilliant.” (The New Yorker) 

“Superb.... Reminds us eloquently, abundantly, what a brilliant, original man Benjamin Rush was, and how his contributions to...the United States continue to bless us all.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Perceptive... [a] readable reassessment of Rush’s remarkable career.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“An amazing life and a fascinating book.” (CBS This Morning)

“Fried makes the case, in this comprehensive and fascinating biography, that renaissance man Benjamin Rush merits more attention.... Fried portrays Rush as a complex, flawed person and not just a list of accomplishments;...a testament to the authorial thoroughness and insight that will keep readers engaged until the last page.” (Publishers Weekly - starred review)

“[An] extraordinary and underappreciated man is reinstated to his rightful place in the canon of civilizational advancement in Rush.... Had I read Fried’s Rush before the year’s end, it would have crowned my favorite books of 2018...[a] superb biography.” (Brain Pickings)

©2018 Stephen Fried (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Benjamin Rush is best known as the founding father the more famous founders wrote to. Stephen Fried, in this fascinating biography, shows us why we need to reconsider, and pay more attention to a man whose talents rivaled Franklin’s, opinions equaled Adams’s, and facility with language approached Jefferson’s.” (H.W. Brands, author of The First American and Heirs of the Founders)

“The best books are full of surprises. Rush has more of them than any historical biography I have read in ages. It is vast and sumptuous and brings to life Founding Father Benjamin Rush in full technicolor. Too long ignored, Rush’s varied and mercurial brilliance puts him smack in the company of such figures as Adams and Jefferson and Washington and Hamilton with one exception: He is more interesting than any of them. He revolutionized medicine. He revolutionized healthcare. He revolutionized life. Fried draws it all out with his usual perfect pitch of reportage and writing. What a grand feast and feat.” (Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City)
 

"An important and fascinating account of a relatively neglected yet critical Founding Father.  Benjamin Rush - Surgeon General of the Continental Army, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Jefferson's choice for medical advisor to the Lewis and Clark Expedition - is also acknowledged as the Father of American Psychiatry for his study and treatment of the mentally ill. Stephen Fried brings to life Rush's extraordinary political and medical contributions, as well as the times in which he lived." (Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind and Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire

What listeners say about Rush

Average Customer Ratings

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The narration problem can be corrected

I'm only partway through this book, but I wanted to share my solution to the weird slow-speech and pauses. I had listened to another biography read by the same narrator, and that sounded fine, so I decided to try adjusting the playback speed to 1.1 (that's an option in the Audible app) and that did the trick. It seems that for some reason the publisher decided to slow down the narration. It's a shame, because they're doing a disservice to both the narrator and this (so far) excellent book.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

What did I just read?

I almost never bother to write reviews, but this book was so innane and pointless, I thought a warning was appropriate. I love history and I love biographies, even biographies about relatively inconsequential figures; however, I am genuinely left wondering what the point of this book was other then to remind us there were "founding fathers" we know less about than others. I can only assume the author's thesis is contained in the lengthy title - that Rush is a visionary and key founding father. The problem is, I read basically nothing to suggest that is in any way accurate. I expected this book to explain WHY Rush was such a "visionary" and important founding father. What I got was neither. Evidently, Rush had two enduring legacies: he seemed compassionate about mental illness while not understanding it at all and loved to "bleed" patients in a misguided and wholly ineffectual attempt to cure all illnesses - including mental illness. While the first is admirable, the book itself seems to acknowledge other doctors around the same time in Europe were also growing more compassionate making Rush's compassion comendable, but not visionary. The second, his love of bleeding, makes him sound like a medieval quack. Tellingly, Rush's own colleagues AT THE TIME seem to agree his methods were well intentioned, but dangerous and possibly lethal. Does that sound visionary to you? It sounds like a character out of a Monty Python movie to me. As for his contribution to the revolution, he seems to have thought it a good idea (as did mant), signed a few documents and then was pushed out of office because he couldn't get along with anyone and, hilariously, was tangentially related you a plot to replace George Washington at the height of the war. He couldn't even get elected to Congress in for own state. What a founder! What instincts! It's amazing he's not as well known as Thomas Jefferson. Oh, and he was anti-slavery, except for the slave he kept for a few decades. I guess that's... Progressive? The truth is, there's nothing remarkable about Benjamin Rush other than his proximity to the great names of the American revolution and his utter lack of tact. A friend writing to tell him he was more important than Benjamin Franklin does not make it so. I guess there's a reason some founders are better known than others. Perhaps Rush really is a great man forgotten by history, but if he is, this book did nothing but confirm, for me, he was a mildly paternal racist quack who was absolutely a product of his times and not a visionary of them. It was like reading a book about a secretary of agriculture that promises to explain how he was integral in winning World War II only to find out he was a private in the army, was dishonorably discharged and then was... A secretary of agriculture who thought plants needed more Gatorade to grow. Sure, that book might be interesting, but as a plot to a comedy - not a thesis for a forgotten great man.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

A Long & Fascinating Life Made into a Long & Dull Book

I was very excited to read about our Founding Father, since Texan Patriot Benjamin Rush Milam was named for him. But his incredible life story was bogged down in excruciating detail which made for a really long 21 hours.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating and Eye-opening.

I had to listen at 1.3x speed to bring the narrator up to a tolerable pace, but otherwise the narrator was quite good. The book was fascinating. I had previously heard of Rush but only in limited capacity. I've come to have huge respect for and further interest in him. We learn about Rush through his own words, the words of his friends, colleagues, students, enemies, supporters, and detractors. The book is not a puff piece, and addresses some legitimate criticisms of the man and paradoxes (for example, he was very clearly anti-slavery and a huge supporter of free Blacks, but he had also purchased a slave, whom he later freed) as well as celebrates his achievements and the unappreciated-in-the-modern-day influence he had in medicine, in the revolution, and in shaping our government in ways which last until today. I found the story especially fascinating as a Philadelphian, and have made a few trips into town to see certain locations for myself with fresh eyes. If you enjoy biography, and have a special interest in the Revolution, colonial and early America, or the history of medicine, this book is highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Useful but pedestrian

This biography of Benjamin Rush was very useful in the sense that it laid out an authoritative factual account of Rush's life. For those with only a modest interest in Rush, this account will be more detailed than they want. But for me, the greatest weakness of the biography is its failure to provide a sense of the man other than than through Rush's own eyes. There is merit in having such a sympathetic biographer. But I think there is even more merit in having a detached, wise perspective. Still, I was very happy to have available such a well written and factual account of Rush. If a biographer is to be judged only by the other biographies on the same subject, this biographer deserves five stars. My evaluation is based on a more universal and thus demanding standard.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

An Amazing Read!

Well-researched and thoroughly engaging story of the life of one of the founding fathers-Dr Benjamin Rush. The amazing life of a man who was intimately acquainted with all the principals in the American Revolution. He was also the American pioneer in mental health and in military camp hygiene. His voluminous correspondence adds much to our knowledge of the lives and times of the Revolution. He was responsible for the rapprochement between Adams and Jefferson which produced years of letters between those two until their deaths. This is a “must read” audiobook!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

RUSH

Great read and will make you wonder aloud why he isn't more famous! He should be revived for the advancement of medicine for all as one of his last directives to his MD Son, "be indulgent to the poor!"

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

I did not know that!

There were so many tidbits in this book I did not know. I am no scholar but have read much on Jefferson and Adams. I found Rush a pretty amazing person and was reminded again of the deep sacrifices our founding fathers and their families made. That they are so readily dismissed and scorned today proves what many have forgotten or never knew to begin with.
The narration was fine. I found some of the letters a little trying to get through, particularly the one describing dreams. The description of the care for the mentally ill shows how far we have come and Dr. Rush set us upon that path.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • DM
  • 05-13-21

what a man

There are so many great people who were so dedicated at the birth of this country, so many of them most people dont even know. this is one of them. this is a great man and we all should know more of him. this is a fantastic work, well written, well researched, and super educational, enjoy! great read!!!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

It's a good book.

I really enjoyed learning about Benjamin Rush. There are many interesting details that the author brought out, but I think he made a really good characterization of Rush.

One point of disagreement that I have is the author's premise that Rush supported the separation of church and state. He made this commenting several times, but never provided direct evidence to support this claim, especially as we understand it today. Rush was one of the most religious founding fathers, so to think he didn't want churches influencing government at all didn't match with what we know of him.

Also, this was read too slow for my liking. I had to speed it up to enjoy it.