PRAISE FOR AMERICAN EDEN
“Absolutely riveting.” —Ira Flatow, host of Science Friday
“American Eden is one of those rare books…it 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
“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
“The founding era blooms with rare color in American Eden. In this captivatingly told story of how one man’s quest to cultivate his garden helped build his nation, Victoria Johnson makes a powerful argument for the age of Hamilton as the age of Hosack. She writes eloquently, researches deeply, and thinks creatively, and the result is a fresh, vivid picture of the early republic sure to enthrall readers of biography and history alike.”
—Maya Jasanoff, Coolidge Professor of History, Harvard University
“Victoria Johnson has written an engaging intellectual biography that weaves science into the story of America’s founding. American Eden is rich in insights, and it casts a vivid light on the astounding achievements of the nation’s first botanist.”
—Russell Shorto, author of Revolution Song and The Island at the Center of the World
“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 brings Hosack vividly to life while fully delineating his remarkable civic and scientific achievements.”
—Daniel J. Kevles, Stanley Woodward Professor Emeritus of History, Yale University
“Victoria Johnson’s American Eden is the kind of history I love: deeply researched, evocative of its time, and fascinating at every turn. It follows the life of David Hosack, early American doctor, botanist, New Yorker, and bon vivant, whose life touched the famous on both sides of the Atlantic. Hosack was there when Alexander Hamilton took a bullet; Hosack greeted the Marquis de Lafayette on his triumphal return in 1824; Hosack founded North America's first botanic garden on the land where Rockefeller Center now stands in midtown Manhattan. 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: A Natural History of New York City
“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
“As a botanist and a plant lover, I was bursting with pride to learn that a veritable parade of our Founding Fathers were so intimately familiar with the plants of North America….Rhizomes, petioles and stamens coexisted comfortably alongside concepts such as liberty, equality and justice in their minds and in their writing. Through her exhaustive research, Johnson reveals the incredible life story of David Hosack—doctor, botanist and patriot, friend of Alexander Hamilton, tutor to Napoleon’s staff—a man of great ambition who actually dreamed of writing a flora of the vast continent of North America. Two centuries later, Hosack's dream is not yet a reality.”
—Daniel Atha, Director of Conservation Outreach, The New York Botanical Garden
“Though Hosack is unfamiliar to many, his friends and correspondents are not—he was student, friend, colleague or doctor to a cast that included Sir Joseph Banks, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Alexis de Tocqueville and Clement Moore.…The history of the Elgin Botanic Garden reminds us that our current time is not the only one in our history when scientific institutions are under-appreciated, and when the best interests of many may be sacrificed for the political ambitions of a few. We are grateful for citizens like David Hosack.”
—Dr. Barbara Thiers, Vice President and Director of the Herbarium, The New York Botanical Garden
“[American Eden] unfolds like a historical drama featuring America’s founding fathers and one long forgotten hero: David Hosack.…Hosack’s fabled, though never completed Elgin Botanic Garden, stands as an icon of the struggle for nature and the natural sciences within an emerging commercial metropolis. The remains of the Elgin Garden now lie hidden under the ice-rink at Rockefeller Center—a long lost dream frozen in time."
—Vanessa Bezemer Sellers, PhD, The New York Botanical Garden
“In this beautifully crafted account of David Hosack’s pivotal contributions to American botany and medicine, we also learn of his remarkable role as an organization builder. Victoria Johnson makes vivid his efforts at championing civil society in the Early Republic, and in so doing adds to her reputation as a historical sociologist with a most distinctive voice."
—Walter W. Powell, Stanford University