Portraits of David Hosack

David Hosack

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Map Source: Vanderbilt Cultural Landscape Study

David Hosack was born in 1769 in New York City. He attended King's College — now known as Columbia University — for two years where he became interested in medicine. Hosack then transferred to Princeton where he was influenced by the work of noted physician Samuel Bard. After graduating with a B.S. from Princeton, Hosack went on to study medicine, first at the University of Pennsylvania then at the University of Edinburgh, believing medical training in Europe to be superior to that offered in the United States.

Although David was Alexander Hamilton's personal physician after his duel with Aaron Burr, having served as the Hamilton family doctor for years, his legacy lies not in the medical sciences but in the fields of botany and history. (For more about his connection to Alexandrer Hamilton, please visit the David Hosack page on Wikipedia.org.) Dr. Hosack created the Elgin Botanic Garden (where Rockefeller Center now stands), the first of its kind in the United States. Friends and associates around the world sent Dr. Hosack seed samples for the garden, which was modeled after the gardens Hosack observed in Europe and which he named after the Scottish birthplace of his father.

Dr. Hosack was one of the first people to introduce European style landscape architecture in the United States. He brought many new plants and trees — particularly apple trees — never before seen or cultivated in this country.

In 1828, Hosack purchased the estate of his mentor Samuel Bard. The property became a gathering place for intellectuals throughout the Hudson Valley. Visitors to the house included artists from the Hudson River School, naturalists, and authors such as Washington Irving. Hosack was considered one of New York's first citizens, having been a founder of the New-York Historical Society, the American Academy of Fine Arts, and Bellevue Hospital.

David Hosack died in 1837, leaving a distinguished legacy in the arts and sciences and his mark on New York civic and social affairs. His estate, it was said, was "the resort of the learned and the enlightened from every part of the world."

For more information, see Hamilton's Physician: David Hosack, Renaissance Man of Early New York by Elizabeth Rohn Jeffe. Published by the New-York Historical Society.

For the definitive biography of David Hosack, read David Hosack: Citizen of New York by Christine Chapman Robbins, Published by the American Philosophical Society, 1964.