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We have thus presented the readers of the Portrait Gallery with a rapid but faithful outline of the more prominent events which have marked the life of David HosACK. Our prescribed limits forbid more minuteness. He who from an early beginning has devoted the best energies of a well disciplined intellect for a period of more than forty years to the service of science and humanity, commands the admiration of all who cherish that devotion for the welfare of society which ennobles our species. Conspicuous, moreover, as the medical profession of this country have ever been in works of benevolence, and in deeds conducive to the advancement of sound learning, none in that eminent rank of men can be pointed out who have surpassed the subject of this sketch. We have seen that the humane society, the city dispensary, and other charities have had the boundaries of their benevolence enlarged by his suggestions; the Jennerian discovery found in him its promptest and most strenuous advocate almost immediately after the great blessing was promulgated abroad; the rigors of prison discipline have been meliorated by his measures; and in seasons of pestilence, when dismay and danger invaded every inhabitant, with an intrepidity surpassing all commendation. Dr. HOSACK was found the sure and fixed guide, alike indifferent in himself to the power and consequences of the pestilence, and solicitous only to lessen the extent of its ravages, and to ascertain the laws by which it was governed. Hence it was well observed by a foreign critic, " I would rather be the author of Dr. Hosack's paper on the laws of contagion, than the writer of the ponderous quarto volume of Dr. Adams on morbid poisons ;” and it may be further remarked, that no future historian of the malignant yellow fever, will be able to do justice to his subject without a close examination of the facts and doctrines which Dr. Hosack has recorded in his various publications. The constituted authorities and his fellow citizens have accordingly, on several occasions, publicly expressed their acknowledgements of his services, and evinced their gratitude for the fidelity with which he was ever found at the post of duty.
As the cultivator of natural science, the founder of the Elgin botanic garden has peculiar claims to regard. This institution was created by vast toil and at no inconsiderable expense; the anticipations of the- learned and enlightened friends of natural history in distant regions of the world have indeed been disappointed by the subsequent neglect and decay of this establishment, but no censure can fall to Dr. Hosack from this circumstance. Legislative provision for its support, was, through a singular policy, withheld, and as a legitimate consequence, what had been effected by large pecuniary means and scientific direction, without the continuance of these aids, could not otherwise than prove abortive. The generous light in which his contributions to horticultural knowledge have been viewed, led the Horticultural Society of London to award him one of its annual medals, and create him an honorary member.
But as the able and distinguished practitioner, as the learned, eloquent, and sound professor of practical medicine, it is that Dr. Hos AcK's title to the name of a benefactor of his species is most strongly founded. In the responsible vocation of teacher, he may safely be declared to have had no superior: for this department of knowledge, his genius and capacity seem to have been peculiarly adapted. “We take pride, (said the students of his class, in a public address to him upon the termination of the annual course of his collegiate duties,) in declaring our emotions of sincere and ardent gratitude for the elaborate courses of instruction he has given on the important branches committed to his care. His enlightened and liberal views of the profession; his minute and extensive acquaintance with the treasures of ancient and modern learning; his accuracy of observation, derived from the stores of his own ample experience; his judicious and extended application of the system of induction to medical philosophy; his impressive and ready method of communication, have imparted to his lectures the highest interest, and have left us in equal admiration of the science itself, and of the ability of the lecturer.”
As a member, and as president of the Historical Society of New York, he appropriated a portion of his time, of his pecuniary resources, and of his cultivated mind, towards its advancement to its present excellent condition : as the successor of the lamented Clinton, as president of the Literary and Philosophical Society, it is admitted he has acted worthy of the enlightened career of his predecessor.
A more disinterested tribute to the memory of a faithful patriot and eminent man, cannot readily be cited than his biography of his illustrious friend, - his memoir of Dewitt Clinton.
Many of our successful cultivators in science and the arts have received the homage due their efforts in the testimonials of foreign associations. The friends of Dr. Hosack refer with pleasurable emotions to the fact that his claims to a like distinction were not overlooked by his earliest associates abroad, and feel the greatest satisfaction that his recommendation as Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1816, was supported by such names as Sir Joseph
Banks, Sir James Edward Smith, Abraham Rees, editor of the Cyclopædia, John Abernethy, Sir Gilbert Blane, Dr. Colin Chisholm, and others. Dr. Brewster, now Sir David, and the venerable John Playfair, were, we believe, among the most prominent of those who nominated him as Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His alma mater, Princeton college, conferred on him, in 1818, the degree of LL. D., and the same literary distinction was also bestowed on him by Union college.
Shortly after his retirement from the city, being invited by some of his friends to enter into political life, and to attach himself to one of the parties then existing, he declined the invitation, and in his reply thus expressed his views and feelings. “If a party could be formed favorable to the interests of education, of agriculture, and the commercial character of our state; to the development of its natural resources and promotive of internal improvements; to such a party I could not hesitate to avow my allegiance, and to devote the best exertions of which I am capable to advance the interests of my native state and country: but under the existing dissentions, I must decline all connexion with our political institutions, and devote myself to the cultivation of the vine and the fig-tree, as more conducive to my own happiness and that of my family."