When Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr met on a dueling ground in July 1804, they chose the same attending physician: David Hosack. Family doctor and friend to both men, Hosack is today a shadowy figure at the edge of a famous duel, the great achievements of his life forgotten. But in 1801, on twenty acres of Manhattan farmland, Hosack founded the first public botanical garden in the new nation, amassing a spectacular collection of medicinal, agricultural, and ornamental plants that brought him worldwide praise from the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Sir Joseph Banks, and Alexander von Humboldt. Hosack used his pioneering institution to train the next generation of American doctors and naturalists, and to conduct some of the first pharmaceutical research in the United States. Today, his former garden is the site of Rockefeller Center.
Victoria Johnson is Associate Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Hunter College. She earned her PhD in sociology from Columbia University in 2002 and her undergraduate degree in philosophy from Yale University in 1991. In 2015-2016, she was a Fellow of the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and in the summer of 2016 she was Mellon Visiting Scholar at The New York Botanical Garden’s Humanities Institute, where she conducted research for her new book, American Eden, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction and one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018.