Domestic Exhalations and Pestilential Fevers: Philadelphia’s Search for a Yellow Fever Cure
The 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia has become well known: the story has a hero—Benjamin Rush—and a villain—a mysterious pestilential disease which killed almost 10 percent of the population. Rush has been roundly criticized, both by posterity and his contemporaries, for his harsh therapies of bloodletting and extreme medicines. The management of the 1793 epidemic played against rivalries and disagreements between doctors and questioned deeply rooted medical philosophies. By the 1797 epidemic, public officials once again appealed to the medical establishment for advice on public health. Two camps presented their competing observations and conclusions—The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and its splinter faction, the Academy of Medicine, led by Rush and Philip Syng Physick. This illustrated presentation examines their competing theories of Yellow Fever and its treatment, revealing the nature of patriotic ideals, criticism of the country’s maritime economy, and even what it meant to be an American. Lecture to be followed by a reception.
Speaker's Bio: Robert D. Hicks, PhD is the director of the Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Formerly, he supervised exhibits, collections, and educational outreach at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. He has worked with museum-based education and exhibits for over three decades, primarily as a consultant to historic sites and museums. Robert has a doctorate in maritime history from the University of Exeter, United Kingdom, and degrees in anthropology and archaeology from the University of Arizona. His most recent book was Voyage to Jamestown: Practical Navigation in the Age of Discovery (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2011.)