Concerning his early history, very little is known, except that he taught chemistry. He was appointed to the United States Army with the rank of assistant apothecary-general in 1814, served first in Philadelphia, was afterward attached to the northern division of the Army, and was chief medical officer of the U. S. Military Academy and the Army post at West Point from June 1820 until November 1821. On the reorganization of the Army, he became assistant surgeon and acting professor of chemistry and mineralogy at West Point, in which capacity he continued until his death. He was president of the Columbian Chemical Society in Philadelphia.
He wrote several papers in the earlier volumes of Silliman's American Journal of Sciences,” and was the author of:
- Useful Cabinet (1808)
- Philosophy of Experimental Chemistry (1813)
- Treatise on Pyrotechnics (Philadelphia, 1825)
His brother Edward Cutbush was a noted surgeon and professor of chemistry.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Cutbush, James". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Smith, Edgar F. (December 1999). "James Cutbush: an American chemist 1788-1823" (PDF). Prometheus Publications (freepyroinfo.com). Retrieved 10 May 2011.