Finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Nonfiction
A New York Times Editors' Choice Selection
The untold story of Hamilton’sand Burr’spersonal physician, whose dream to build America’s first botanical garden inspired the young Republic.
On a clear morning in July 1804, Alexander Hamilton stepped onto a boat at the edge of the Hudson River. He was bound for a New Jersey dueling ground to settle his bitter dispute with Aaron Burr. Hamilton took just two men with him: his “second” for the duel, and Dr. David Hosack.
As historian Victoria Johnson reveals in her groundbreaking biography, Hosack was one of the few points the duelists did agree on. Summoned that morning because of his role as the beloved Hamilton family doctor, he was also a close friend of Burr. A brilliant surgeon and a world-class botanist, Hosackwho until now has been lost in the fog of historywas a pioneering thinker who shaped a young nation.
Born in New York City, he was educated in Europe and returned to America inspired by his newfound knowledge. He assembled a plant collection so spectacular and diverse that it amazes botanists today, conducted some of the first pharmaceutical research in the United States, and introduced new surgeries to America. His tireless work championing public health and science earned him national fame and praise from the likes of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander von Humboldt, and the Marquis de Lafayette.
One goal drove Hosack above all others: to build the Republic’s first botanical garden. Despite innumerable obstacles and near-constant resistance, Hosack triumphed when, by 1810, his Elgin Botanic Garden at last crowned twenty acres of Manhattan farmland. “Where others saw real estate and power, Hosack saw the landscape as a pharmacopoeia able to bring medicine into the modern age” (Eric W. Sanderson, author of Mannahatta). Today what remains of America’s first botanical garden lies in the heart of midtown, buried beneath Rockefeller Center.
Whether collecting specimens along the banks of the Hudson River, lecturing before a class of rapt medical students, or breaking the fever of a young Philip Hamilton, David Hosack was an American visionary who has been too long forgotten. Alongside other towering figures of the post-Revolutionary generation, he took the reins of a nation. In unearthing the dramatic story of his life, Johnson offers a lush depiction of the man who gave a new voice to the powers and perils of nature.
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.
Table of Contents
To the Reader xv
Chapter 1 "Tear In Pieces The Doctors" 15
Chapter 2 "An Endless Source Of Innocent Delight" 38
Chapter 3 "Ripping Open My Belly" 52
Chapter 4 "He Is As Good As The Theatre" 70
Chapter 5 "The Grass Is Three Feet High In The Streets" 94
Chapter 6 "Doctor, I Despair" 117
Chapter 7 "There Are No Informed People Here" 127
Chapter 8 "H-K Is Enough, And Even That Unnecessary" 151
Chapter 9 "This Delicious Banquet" 169
Chapter 10 "I Long To See Captain Lewis" 192
Chapter 11 "Strange Noises, Low Spirits" 203
Chapter 12 "Such A Piece Of Downright Imposture" 219
Chapter 13 "You Know, Better Than Any Man" 233
Chapter 14 "Instead Of Creeping Along The Earth" 250
Chapter 15 "Your Fortunate City" 274
Chapter 16 "Expulsion From The Garden Of Eden" 295
A BBC History Best Book of the YearOne of the most miraculous military rescue missions
in modern history comes alive in this “superb and panoramic” (Washington Post) account of Dunkirk. No one can evince the drama of what actually happened ...
Paul Freedman’s gorgeously illustrated history is “an epic quest to locate the roots of American
foodways and follow changing tastes through the decades, a search that takes [Freedman] straight to the heart of American identity” (William Grimes).Hailed as a “grand ...
With surprising tales of vicious mutineers, imperial riches, and high-seas intrigue, Black Flags, Blue Waters
is “rumbustious enough for the adventure-hungry” (Peter Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle). Set against the backdrop of the Age of Exploration, Black Flags, Blue Waters reveals ...
The unknown story of the only leprosy colony in the continental United States, and the
thousands of Americans who were exiledhidden away with their “shameful” disease.The Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans curls around an old sugar plantation ...
Named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, San Francisco
Chronicle, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness A School Library Journal In the Margins Recommendation“An elegiac memoir and social jeremiad,” Cuz is “a literary and political event ...
“A powerful argument, swept along by Katznelson’s robust prose and the imposing scholarship that lies
behind it.”Kevin Boyle, New York Times Book Review A work that “deeply reconceptualizes the New Deal and raises countless provocative questions” (David Kennedy), Fear Itself ...
An audacious and concrete proposal…Half-Earth completes the 86-year-old Wilson’s valedictory trilogy on the human animal
and our place on the planet. Jedediah Purdy, New RepublicIn his most urgent book to date, Pulitzer Prize–winning author and world-renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson ...
Shortlisted for the German Book PrizeAn eerie and uncanny mystery, reminiscent of early Pynchon, and
the American debut of one of the most acclaimed young European novelists. In the Austrian state of Styria lies the Helianau Institute, a boarding school ...