Joseph Banks

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Sir Joseph Banks, Bt

Joseph Banks, as painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1773.
Born 13 February 1743(1743-02-13)
30 Argyll Street, London
Died 19 June 1820(1820-06-19) (aged 77)
London, England
Nationality British
Fields Botany
Alma mater University of Oxford
Known for Endeavour voyage and exploration of Botany Bay
Influences Israel Lyons
Author abbreviation (botany) Banks

Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet GCB PRS (13 February 1743 – 19 June 1820) was an English naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences. Banks was President of the Royal Society 1778–1820; baronet 1781; Privy Counsellor 1797. His collections were given to the British Museum.[1]

Banks took part in Captain James Cook's first great voyage from 1768 to 1771.[2] He inherited a large fortune, and was able to hire his own team to help collect, package and transport his finds. Banks discovered and collected Eucalyptus, Acacia, Mimosa, and Banksia. About 80 species of plants are named after Banks.

Education[change | change source]

Banks was educated at Harrow School, Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford.

Exploration[change | change source]

Newfoundland and Labrador[change | change source]

In 1766 Banks was elected to the Royal Society, and in the same year he accompanied Phipps to Newfoundland and Labrador to study their natural history. He made his name by publishing the first Linnean descriptions of the plants and animals of Newfoundland and Labrador.[3]

Endeavour voyage[change | change source]

Banks was promptly appointed to a joint Royal Navy/Royal Society scientific expedition to the south Pacific Ocean on HMS Endeavour, 1768–1771. This was the first of James Cook's voyages of discovery in that region. Banks joined the ship with a staff of eight: Daniel Solander and H.D. Spöring, naturalists; Alexander Buchan and Sydney Parkinson, artists; James Roberts and Peter Briscoe, tenants from Revesby; Thomas Richmond and George Dorlton (Dollin), negro servants. Only four of this party survived the voyage, Banks himself, Solander and the two Revesby men.[3]

This voyage went first to Brazil, where Banks made the first scientific description of a now common garden plant, Bougainvillea (named after Cook's French counterpart, Louis Antoine de Bougainville), and to other parts of South America.

Satire on Banks titled "The Botanic Macaroni". A 'macaroni' was an insult used to describe fashionable men in the 18th Century

The voyage then went to Tahiti (where the transit of Venus was observed, the purpose of the mission), to New Zealand and to the east coast of Australia, where Cook mapped the coastline and made landfall at Botany Bay and at Endeavour River (near modern Cooktown) in Queensland, where they spent seven weeks ashore while the ship was repaired after damage on the Great Barrier Reef.[3]

While they were in Australia Banks, Solander and Spöring made the first collection of Australian plants, describing many that were new to science. Almost 800 specimens were illustrated by the artist Sydney Parkinson and appear in Banks' Florilegium, finally published in 35 volumes between 1980 and 1990. Banks arrived back in England on 12 July 1771 and immediately became famous.

Banks in popular culture[change | change source]

There are many things in Australia named after Banks. These include the Division of Banks, a Federal Electoral Division for the Australian House of Representatives in the state of New South Wales. The species Banksia is named after him.

References[change | change source]

  1. Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
  2. O'Brian, Patrick 1987. Joseph Banks: a life. London: The Harvill Press. ISBN 0-00-217350-6.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 L.A. Gilbert (1966). "Banks, Sir Joseph (1743–1820)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1. Melbourne University Press. pp. 52–55. http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A010051b.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-06.
  4. Brummitt, R. K.; C. E. Powell (1992). Authors of Plant Names. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 1-84246-085-4.