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Recovering the Founding Legacy of Dr. Benjamin Rush with Stephen Fried

In 1793, the dreaded Yellow Fever swept through Philadelphia. The deadly virus raced through the nation’s capital between August and November, killing at least 5,000 of the city’s inhabitants.

Among the multi-racial group of Americans on the front lines of the battle against the disease was Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a key figure in the nation’s early medical establishment.

Rush, who was the architect of the reunion between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams after years of bitter silence between the two men, was a Founding Father in his own right, but one often overshadowed by his contemporaries.

On today’s episode, historian and journalist Stephen Fried joins Jim Ambuske for a wide-ranging conversation about Rush, founding legacies, and of course public health and medicine in the eighteenth century.

Fried is the author of the recent book, Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father.

About Our Guest:

Stephen Fried is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author who teaches at Columbia University and at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of seven acclaimed nonfiction books, including Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West—One Meal at a Time (a New York Times bestseller that was the subject of a PBS documentary); Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia (which inspired the Emmy-winning HBO film Gia starring Angelina Jolie); Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs (which triggered an FDA inquiry into CNS adverse reactions to antibiotics); The New Rabbi (a behind-the-scenes look at one of the nation’s most powerful houses of worship struggling to choose a new spiritual leader) and a collection of his magazine columns on being a spouse, Husbandry. He is also co-author, with Patrick Kennedy, of the 2015 New York Times bestseller A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction.

About Our Host:

Jim Ambuske leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia in 2016 with a focus on Scotland and America in an Age of War and Revolution. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  He is the co-author with Randall Flaherty of "Reading Law in the Early Republic: Legal Education in the Age of Jefferson," in The Founding of Thomas Jefferson's University ed. by John A. Rogasta, Peter S. Onuf, and Andrew O'Shaughnessy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019). Ambuske is currently at work on a book entitled Emigration and Empire: America and Scotland in the Revolutionary Era, as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.