2:00 p.m. Sunday, October 21

image of invitation card

The Betty Strong Encounter Center will present “Benjamin Rush: Doctor of Discovery” with Dr. Scott Culpepper at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21. Admission will be free; a reception will follow.

Culpepper, a Dordt College History Professor, will explore the multiple contributions the “Doctor of Discovery” made to secure the birth and expansion of our nation.

“Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) lived an extraordinary life dedicated to public service. He signed the Declaration of Independence, worked to improve public health, promoted public education, and served as a medical advisor to Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery,” says Culpepper.

Most remedies during Lewis & Clark’s time aimed at cleansing the body of “unhealthy” fluids. Powerful laxatives and medicines that induced vomiting purged the patient. Capt. Meriwether Lewis bought 600 of Dr. Rush’s laxative pills, popularly known as “thunderclappers.”

Yet, Rush also taught the need for cleanliness. He worked for better treatment of patients with mental illness and was among the first in America to advocate smallpox vaccination. The smallpox vaccine - the first modern vaccine - was developed in England in the late 1700s, just before Lewis and Clark's voyage. It was first known as “cowpox vaccine.”

President Thomas Jefferson was aware that smallpox had devastated Native peoples. He instructed Lewis to carry “cowpox vaccine” and educate Native peoples about its usefulness.

Culpepper’s teaching and research interests are the Atlantic world and American history, with particular emphasis on the intersection of faith, politics and popular culture. He is the author of “Francis Johnson and the English Separatist Influence: The Bishop of Brownism’s Life, Ministry, and Controversies” (Mercer University Press, 2011).