As a doctor, Hosack is best remembered for facing down New York City’s fiercely politicized medical establishment when yellow fever closed in on New York in the early 1800s; the treatment he advocated, in the face of ridicule from his colleagues, saved countless lives. He also had many medical innovations to his credit: At the age of 26, he became the first doctor to tie off the femoral artery in the treatment of aneurism; he was also an early advocate of the use of the stethoscope and the first to operate on hydroceles by injection. In addition, Hosack was a founder of several New York institutions that survive to this day, including Bellevue Hospital and The New York Historical Society.
The doctor is particularly known for having founded the Elgin Botanic Garden on a hilly, heavily wooded, twenty-acre patch of land that would later become Rockefeller Center; the first botanical garden in the United States at a time when pharmacology was plant-based, the Elgin was a center of learning for medical students and doctors alike.
By the time Hosack died, in 1835, he was one of the city’s most famous citizens. His imprimatur was enormous – and had a direct effect on the fate of the New York Marble Cemetery. When Hosack bought a vault there a few years before his demise, other early New Yorkers flocked to do the same and, before too long, the cemetery had became the place to be buried in Manhattan.
Written by: Penelope Rowlands