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Backyard Gardening Series - Victoria Johnson "American Eden" Author Book Signing

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We are thrilled to have Victoria Johnson join us for a lecture and book signing. She is the author of the best selling book  American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic (Liveright, a division of W.W Norton, 2018). Event will take place in the Silver Educational Center.

The untold story of Hamilton’s―and Burr’s―personal physician, whose dream to build America’s first botanical garden inspired the young Republic.

Talk description:

This illustrated lecture by historian Victoria Johnson features her new book, American Eden, which both the Wall Street Journal and Ron Chernow (Alexander Hamilton) have called “captivating.” American Eden was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award in Nonfiction as well as a New York Times Notable Book of 2018.

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 pharmacological research in the United States. Today, his former garden is the site of Rockefeller Center.

Victoria Johnson author photo by Ivo M. Vermeulen.jpg

Speaker Bio:

Victoria Johnson is Associate Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Hunter College of the City University of New York, where she teaches on nonprofits, arts management, and the history of New York City. She earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Yale in 1991 and a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia in 2002. Before joining Hunter College in 2015, she taught at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for thirteen years.

To learn more about the book and the author, please visit


New York Times, Sunday Book Review, July 1, 2018   "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. An innovative medical practitioner, he was the friend and doctor Hamilton and Burr had in attendance on that July morning along the Weehawken cliffs for their ill-starred duel. Did Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” leave you with an appetite for more? “American Eden” will not disappoint....In her ambitious and entertaining book Johnson connects past to present. David Hosack’s garden may have been short-lived, but in our parks, gardens, medical practices and pharmacology, his efforts continue to bear fruit."   —Marta McDowell

Scientific American, July 2018 Issue, Book Recommendations from the Editors of Scientific American   "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