Early America’s foremost botanist was also New York’s greatest institution builder, a man of ‘Industry and Talents.’ ... In her captivating biography American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic Victoria Johnson describes how, at a time when 'Philadelphians thought they inhabited the Athens of America,' Hosack helped to tip the scales in New York’s favor ... Along the way, she restores this attractive polymath—who today is mainly remembered, thanks to a small role in a certain hip-hop musical, as the doctor-in-attendance at the 1804 duel between two of his patients, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton —to his rightful place in American history. The rescue from oblivion is long overdue.
If Rockefeller Center is haunted, a likely candidate for the ghost is David Hosack, the doctor-botanist who assembled a major plant collection on the site starting in 1801 ... Victoria Johnson’s American Eden unearths Hosack, who was lauded in his lifetime but largely forgotten since. Hosack’s Columbia lectures were, as one student said, 'as good as the theater,' and so is Johnson’s storytelling. She weaves his biography with threads of history — political, medical and scientific — and the tale of an up-and-coming New York City.
David Hosack was an exemplary citizen of New York, intelligent, ambitious, public-spirited. A respected physician, he attended his friend Alexander Hamilton’s duel with Aaron Burr ... But Hosack’s passion was botany. In the days when drugs came entirely from plants, he believed their systematic study was essential to discovering cures for humanity’s ills ... plant-lovers and gardeners will savor the tales Johnson discovered about nineteenth-century botanizing and empathize with the trials of saving a garden, the most ephemeral of treasures, for posterity ... Though festooned with too many subplots, American Eden is a worthwhile read for history fans, botany and garden enthusiasts, and everyone interested in the challenge of turning a good idea into a legacy.
Anyone in philanthropy or the nonprofit sector will empathize with his struggles to raise funds from wealthy New Yorkers ... Gardeners will savor stories of 19th century botanizing and appreciate Hosack’s quest to save a garden, the most ephemeral of treasures, for posterity ... The flaw in this interesting story is that the narrative veers off ... a worthwhile read for history lovers, gardeners and anyone interested in the challenge of turning a good idea into a legacy.
A biography of David Hosack, a nature-obsessed doctor who 'was convinced that saving lives also depended on knowing the natural world outside the human body.' ... Hosack traveled to Britain in 1792 to take advantage of its superior schooling. This included the study of medicinal plants, a more important element in medical practice during that time than today. He became fascinated with botany and brought this passion home in 1794. Settling in New York, he built a prosperous practice and became a university professor in both medicine and botany ... as a physician, Hosack was not ahead of his time. He bled patients, prescribed toxins such as mercury, and administered drugs that produced vomiting, sweating, or diarrhea. This was accepted practice, and Johnson gives his healing efforts perhaps more credit than they deserve, but she provides an engaging tale of an important life in early America ... An adroit portrait of an early American physician who became a pioneering horticulturist.
Johnson...dives deeply into the life of David Hosack, whose work as a leading physician and as the foremost American botanist of his time provides a window into the United States’ formative post-Revolutionary years ... text is laced with surprisingly entertaining descriptions of some of the hundreds of plants Hosack enthusiastically acquired, such as the carnivorous roundleaf sundew, used by some Native Americans as a 'wart remover... and also a love potion' ... History buffs and avid gardeners will find Hosack an appealing and intriguing figure who doubles as an exemplar of the qualities of a vibrant and expanding America.