David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic
In 1801, a young New Yorker named David Hosack—soon to be chosen as attending physician at the duel between his friends Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr—founded the first public botanical garden in the new nation. Hosack was inspired by his botanical studies in the 1790s at the Linnean Society with Sir James Edward Smith and Sir Joseph Banks. In 1794, the Society promoted Hosack from Foreign Member to Fellow. He corresponded with Smith and Banks for the rest of their lives, exchanging books and sending over students. Historian Victoria Johnson recounts how Hosack’s connection to the Linnean Society decisively shaped the future of American botany. Today Hosack’s former garden is the site of Rockefeller Center.
Dr Victoria Johnson is a former Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library and currently is an associate professor of urban policy and planning at Hunter College in New York City, where she teaches on the history of philanthropy, nonprofits, and New York City. She holds a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University and an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Yale.