Associate Professor of Urban Policy and Planning, Hunter College, City University of New York
Founding America’s First Botanical Garden
Victoria Johnson is Associate Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Hunter College of the City University of New York, where she teaches on philanthropy, nonprofits, and the history of New York City. She earned her undergraduate degree in philosophy from Yale in 1991 and her Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia in 2002. She taught for thirteen years at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor before moving back to New York.
Victoria Johnson’s illustrated lecture to the Morning Forum of Los Altos is featured in her new book, American Eden. 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.
The Wall Street Journal and Ron Chernow (Alexander Hamilton) have called Johnson’s book American Eden “captivating.” American Eden was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award in Nonfiction, the 2018 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography, and the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in History. It was also a New York Times Notable Book of 2018.