American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic

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$18.95  $17.62
Liveright Publishing Corporation
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5.5 X 1.1 X 8.2 inches | 0.8 pounds

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About the Author
Victoria Johnson, a former Cullman Fellow, is currently an associate professor of urban policy and planning at Hunter College (City University of New York), where she teaches on the history of nonprofits, philanthropy, and New York City.
Lucky is the biographer who can resurrect a forgotten figure and retrieve a major reputation lost to the passage of time. In this captivating and intensely readable book, Victoria Johnson rescues the remarkable life of Dr. David Hosack, physician and botanist extraordinaire and a towering benefactor of New York and the early republic. A welcome achievement.--Ron Chernow, author of Grant and Alexander Hamilton
An extraordinary book about an extraordinary man, a cosmopolitan visionary of the American future. Integrating an astonishing array of sources into a supple, compelling narrative, Johnson masterfully recounts Hosack's valiant establishment of a garden flourishing with native and immigrant plants, an Eden for the new nation; fleshes out his friendships with the leaders of the early Republic, all of them, including even Jefferson, Hamilton, and Burr, bound by botany; and recalls his pioneering efforts on behalf of medical and cultural New York. Johnson brings Hosack vividly to life while fully delineating his remarkable civic and scientific achievements.--Daniel J. Kevles, Stanley Woodward Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University
[A] fine biography . . . . The cast of characters here represents a veritable who's who of the early republic, as Hosack's drive and talent took him into the orbit of Thomas Jefferson, Sir Joseph Banks, Alexander von Humboldt, and Washington Irving. The story's backdrop is richly drawn: Johnson (urban policy & planning, Hunter Coll.) allows readers to imagine the city's prebuilt landscape as it appeared at the end of the 18th century, and how infectious disease was as dangerous a threat to its citizens as war with Britain. Readers will also delight in the details, as Johnson dutifully names Hosack's prized botanical collections. A brilliant evocation of a man and his time.... Plant lovers, history buffs, New Yorkaphiles, those interested in early medicine, even Hamiltonians--all will find this engrossing.--Library Journal [Starred Review]
[A] captivating biography... Along the way, [Victoria Johnson] 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.... Johnson, an associate professor of urban planning at Hunter College and an authority on botanic gardens, never allows her subject's many achievements to weigh down her narrative. She writes trippingly, with engaging fluency and wit. She has a lovely way of conjuring up early New York and its denizens--the workers calling out as they unload cargo at the docks; the gentlemen crowding into the Tontine Coffee House for the news of the day. The book's botany-related passages are particularly vivid. The author writes of plants delightedly, precisely--as Hosack himself might have done.--Penelope Rowlands, The Wall Street Journal
In the fall of 1797 the eldest son of Alexander Hamilton, Philip, fell ill with yellow fever, which was sweeping through New York City. The family doctor, David Hosack, employed an unorthodox treatment of hot baths of Peruvian bark and alcohol and saved the boy's life... Hosack went on to establish the nation's first botanical garden--the Elgin Botanic Garden--in the place that is now Rockefeller Center and to launch the American era of botany. He used the Elgin collection to conduct some of the earliest methodical research on the medicinal properties of plants, including poppies from which opiates are derived and the two plants that would later be involved in the development of aspirin.--Andrea Gawrylewski, Scientific American [Editors' Book Recommendations]
[David Hosack] became a titan of medical research in the fledgling nation. He published on tetanus and breast cancer, pioneered smallpox vaccination and, as Victoria Johnson's fine science biography reveals, contributed vastly to medicinal botany. Hosack's famed, now lost, Elgin Botanic Garden in New York City became a key training centre for scientists and surgeons, who peered "into the globe-spanning, dizzying complexity of the natural world" through plants. A rich and compelling read.--Barbara Kiser, Nature
American Eden is one of those rare surprises by its originality, it impresses with its deep scholarship and it seduces with its beautiful writing. Victoria Johnson has the gift of a storyteller and the tenacity of a detective...her descriptions of medicine, botany and politics in the early Republic are not only compelling but also exquisitely researched.--Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World
American Eden is an exhaustively researched, brilliant and lively biography set in the close political, social and intellectual circles of the new Republic by professor of urban planning Victoria Johnson... Johnson's storytelling skills and her thorough knowledge of the period and the science makes this a book that will appeal to history lovers, botanists and gardeners alike.--Sara Catterall, Shelf Awareness
American Eden brings to life a young nation and an old New York, deeply known and lovingly peopled by Victoria Johnson. The book paints family portraits of the Founders--Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson, plus their women and children--who orbit around their all-healing doctor, David Hosack. When the doctor blooms into a science pioneer and builds a botanical garden, Johnson gives us a biography of America's first environmentalist, obsessed with preserving the world's flora.--Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family