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Psychology Lecture Notes from Benjamin Rush's Students

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  • Portrait of aged Benjamin Rush
    Portrait of Benjamin Rush. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Rush's (1745-1813) name is primarily associated with his participation in the American Revolution but aside from that role, he also had influence in the classroom. In 1769 he became the first professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia, now known as the University of Pennsylvania (Fried, 2018, p.73). When the school became the University of Pennsylvania in the 1780s he had dual roles with the institutes of medicine and clinical medicine, better known today as applied physiology and clinical practice (Fried, 2018, p.336). According to Stephen Fried (2018), "Rush found himself engrossed-- and sometimes overwhelmed--by the pressure of lecturing on broader and more challenging subjects, after years of boilerplate teaching of chemistry" (p.336). Rush made an impact on those who learned from him, and the lecture notes within this collection provide insight into what students were getting out of his lectures.

Fried, S. (2018). Rush: Revolution, madness, and the visionary doctor who became a founding father. New York, NY: Crown. 

Collection strengths

The Benjamin Rush lecture notes collection includes 34 notebooks from University of Pennsylvania medical students. Inscribed dates show that notebooks within this collection range from 1783 to 1810. According to Penn Libraries' Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts finding aid, "Rush dedicates a number of lectures to the topics of psychology and psychological disorders, including discussions of the symptoms and cures of "passions" (which he usually defines as fear, love, anger and grief) and of mania." For those who want to research how early medical students were receiving psychological information and theories, this is a great place to start.

Benjamin Rush lecture notes, 1783-1810, undated, Ms. Coll. 225, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania

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