Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/514

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510
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

the first to give instruction in botany, in the intervals when he was not in congress or the senate of the United States. After some struggles David Hosack, his successor as professor in the Medical College, secured the establishment of the Elgin Botanical Gardens in this city by aid from the state of New York. These gardens were located on the square bounded by Madison and Fifth Avenues and Fifty-first and Fifty-second Streets, and although south of the lower end of what is now Central Park, they were too remote from the New York city of a century ago to be much visited by the public, and with the pressure of other duties that came to Hosack they soon went into a decline, and the state finally turned them over to Columbia College, first, to manage as a botanical garden and, finally, as this proved a white elephant, to use for whatever purpose they chose. With strange prescience, the college authorities held to their trust, though at times it was a financial burden, and now this same Elgin Botanical Garden, once so worthless, has become one of the foundations of a university's wealth. A fitting memorial to Hosack may be seen in the two ancient yew trees that once stood in the Elgin Gardens, but now flank the approaches to the library of Columbia University.

But Hosack was more than a mere enthusiast over botanical gardens. He had the gift of enthusing others, and among these was a young lawyer with the large jaw so characteristic of the profession, who afterwards became a teacher and finally went to Williams College. Here he spread the contagion for botanical study, and his students became so enthusiastic over the subject that they volunteered to publish his lectures in a book which became the first of a series of eight editions of the manuals of botany that appeared as precursors of Gray's series of a later period. Amos Eaton owed his success to his large jaw—what has sometimes been called the ‘oratorical jaw’—that first impelled him to enter the law. Not alone in botany, but in geology, were his auditors most enthusiastic over his lectures, and one of the state legislatures in joint session invited him to repeat one course before their body. Eaton was perhaps saved from the law for a higher mission through the force of the law itself. For the supposed mismanagement of an estate in Columbia county, he was for a time placed in a debtor's prison in New York city. During his confinement there he amused himself by interesting the bright twelve-year-old son of the prison warden in the study of plants. Here Eaton unconsciously did his greatest work in botany, for the seed, so fortuitously planted, took hold of that twelve-year-old boy and in later years he was known as the Nestor of American botany—John Torrey. But in those early days botany had few emoluments and no endowed chairs. The time for botanical work must be stolen from his recreation hours when not active in his profession, so that while Torrey was