SIR JOSEPH BANKS, 1ST BARONET, GCB , PRS (24 February 1743 – 19
June 1820) was a British naturalist , botanist and patron of the
natural sciences .
Banks made his name on the 1766 natural history expedition to
Newfoundland and Labrador . He took part in Captain
James Cook 's
first great voyage (1768–1771), visiting Brazil, Tahiti, and, after
6 months in New Zealand, Australia, returning to immediate fame. He
held the position of
President of the Royal Society for over 41 years.
King George III on the
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew , and by
sending botanists around the world to collect plants, he made Kew the
world's leading botanical gardens .
Banks advocated British settlement in
New South Wales and
colonisation of Australia, as well as the establishment of
as a place for the reception of convicts, and advised the British
government on all Australian matters. He is credited with introducing
the eucalyptus , acacia , and the genus named after him,
Banksia , to
the Western world. Approximately 80 species of plants bear his name.
He was the leading founder of the
African Association and a member of
Society of Dilettanti which helped to establish the Royal Academy
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early life
* 1.2 Education
Newfoundland and Labrador
* 1.4 Endeavour voyage
* 1.5 Return home
New South Wales
* 1.7 Later life
* 2 Legacy
* 3 See also
* 4 Notes
* 5 References
* 5.1 Primary resources
* 5.2 Secondary resources
* 5.2.1 Select unpublished monographs
* 5.2.2 Fiction
* 6 External links
A 1757 portrait of Banks with a botanical illustration. Unknown
artist, but attributed to
Lemuel Francis Abbott
Lemuel Francis Abbott or
Banks was born on Argyle Street in London to William Banks , a
Lincolnshire country squire and member of the House of Commons
, and his wife Sarah, daughter of William Bate. He had a younger
Sarah Sophia Banks , born in 1744.
Banks was educated at
Harrow School from the age of 9 and at Eton
College from 1756; his fellow students included his future shipmate
Constantine Phipps .
As a boy, Banks enjoyed exploring the
Lincolnshire countryside and
developed a keen interest in nature, history and botany. When he was
17, he was inoculated with smallpox , but he became ill and did not
return to school. In late 1760, he was enrolled as a
gentleman-commoner at the
University of Oxford
University of Oxford . At Oxford, he
matriculated at Christ Church , where his studies were largely focused
on natural history rather than the classical curriculum. Determined to
receive botanical instruction, he paid the Cambridge botanist Israel
Lyons to deliver a series of lectures at Oxford in 1764.
Banks left Oxford for Chelsea in December 1763. He continued to
attend the university until 1764, but left that year without taking a
degree. His father had died in 1761, so when he turned 21 he
inherited the impressive estate of
Revesby Abbey , in Lincolnshire,
becoming the local squire and magistrate , and sharing his time
Lincolnshire and London. From his mother's home in Chelsea he
kept up his interest in science by attending the Chelsea Physic Garden
Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and the
British Museum ,
where he met
Daniel Solander . He began to make friends among the
scientific men of his day and to correspond with
Carl Linnaeus , whom
he came to know through Solander. As Banks's influence increased, he
became an adviser to
King George III and urged the monarch to support
voyages of discovery to new lands, hoping to indulge his own interest
in botany. He became a Freemason sometime before 1769.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
In 1766 Banks was elected to the
Royal Society , and in the same
year, at 23, he went with Phipps aboard the frigate HMS Niger to
Newfoundland and Labrador with a view to studying their natural
history. He made his name by publishing the first Linnean descriptions
of the plants and animals of Newfoundland and Labrador. His diary,
describing his expedition to Newfoundland , was rediscovered recently
Royal Geographical Society of South Australia . Banks also
documented 34 species of birds, including the great auk , which became
extinct in 1844. On 7 May, he noted a large number of "penguins"
swimming around the ship on the
Grand Banks , and a specimen he
collected in Chateau Bay, Labrador , was later identified as the great
Daniel Solander , Sir Joseph Banks, Captain James Cook
, Dr John Hawkesworth and Earl Sandwich by
John Hamilton Mortimer ,
1771. Use a cursor to see who is who. Main article: First voyage
Banks was 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 funded seven others to join him: the Swedish naturalist
Daniel Solander , the Finnish naturalist Herman Spöring , two
artists, a scientific secretary, and two black servants from his
The voyage went 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. The voyage then progressed to Tahiti
(where the transit of Venus was observed, the overt 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 then at
Round Hill (23-25 May 1770) which is now known as Seventeen Seventy
Endeavour River (near modern Cooktown ) in
Queensland , where
they spent almost seven weeks ashore while the ship was repaired after
becoming holed on the
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef . While they were in
Daniel Solander and the Finnish botanist Dr. Herman
Spöring Jr. made the first major collection of Australian flora,
describing many species 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.
Satire on Banks titled "The Botanic Macaroni", by
Matthew Darly ,
1772. A macaroni was a pejorative term used for a follower of
exaggerated continental fashion in the 18th century
Banks arrived back in England on 12 July 1771 and immediately became
famous. He intended to go with Cook on his second voyage, which began
on 13 May 1772, but difficulties arose about Banks' scientific
requirements on board Cook's new ship, Resolution. The Admiralty
regarded Banks' demands as unacceptable and without prior warning
withdrew his permission to sail. In July of the same year he and
Daniel Solander visited the
Isle of Wight ,
Iceland and the western
Scotland . aboard Sir Lawrence and returned with many
botanical specimens. In 1773, he toured south Wales in the company of
Paul Sandby . When he settled in London he began work on his
Florilegium. He kept in touch with most of the scientists of his time,
was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
in 1773, and added a fresh interest when he was elected to the
Dilettante Society in 1774. He was afterwards secretary of this
society from 1778 to 1797. On 30 November 1778 he was elected
President of the Royal Society , a position he was to hold with great
distinction for over 41 years. Banks as painted by Benjamin West
In March 1779, Banks married Dorothea Hugessen, daughter of W. W.
Hugessen, and settled in a large house at 32
Soho Square . It
continued to be his London residence for the remainder of his life.
There he welcomed the scientists, students and authors of his period,
and many distinguished foreign visitors. His sister Sarah Sophia Banks
lived in the house with Banks and his wife. He had as librarian and
curator of his collections Solander,
Jonas Carlsson Dryander and
Robert Brown in succession.
Also in 1779, Banks took a lease on an estate called Spring Grove,
the former residence of Elisha Biscoe (1705–1776), which he
eventually bought outright from Biscoe's son also Elisha in 1808. The
picture shows the house in 1815. Its thirty-four acres ran along the
northern side of the London Road,
Isleworth and contained a natural
spring, which was an important attraction to him. Banks spent much
time and effort on this secondary home. He steadily created a renowned
botanical masterpiece on the estate, achieved primarily with many of
the great variety of foreign plants he had collected on his extensive
travels around the world, particularly to Australia and the South
Seas. The surrounding district became known as \'Spring Grove\' .
Banks' house in
The house was substantially extended and rebuilt by later owners and
is now part of
West Thames College .
Banks was made a baronet in 1781, three years after being elected
president of the Royal Society. During much of this time he was an
informal adviser to
King George III on the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
, a position that was formalised in 1797. Banks dispatched explorers
and botanists to many parts of the world, and through these efforts
Kew Gardens became arguably the pre-eminent botanical gardens in the
world, with many species being introduced to Europe through them and
Chelsea Physic Garden
Chelsea Physic Garden and their head gardener John Fairbairn.
He directly fostered several famous voyages, including that of George
Vancouver to the northeastern Pacific (
Pacific Northwest ); and
William Bligh 's voyages (one entailing the infamous mutiny on the
Bounty ) to transplant breadfruit from the South Pacific to the
Caribbean islands. Banks was also a major financial supporter of
William Smith in his decade-long efforts to create a geological map of
England, the first geological map of an entire country. He also chose
Allan Cunningham for voyages to
Brazil and the north and northwest
coasts of Australia to collect specimens. Sir Joseph Banks
(center), together with
Omai (left) and
Daniel Solander , painted by
William Parry , c. 1775–76.
COLONISATION OF NEW SOUTH WALES
It was Banks's own time in Australia, however, that led to his
interest in the British colonisation of that continent. He was to be
the greatest proponent of settlement in New South Wales. A genus of
Proteaceae was named in his honour as
Banksia . In 1779 Banks, giving
evidence before a committee of the House of Commons, had stated that
in his opinion the place most eligible for the reception of convicts
Botany Bay, on the coast of New Holland ", on the general grounds
that, "it was not to be doubted that a Tract of Land such as New
Holland, which was larger than the whole of Europe, would furnish
Matter of advantageous Return".
His interest did not stop there, for when the settlement started, and
for twenty years afterwards, his fostering care and influence was
always being exercised. He was in fact the general adviser to the
government on all Australian matters. He arranged that a large number
of useful trees and plants should be sent out in the supply ship HMS
Guardian which was unfortunately wrecked. Every vessel that came from
New South Wales brought plants or animals or geological and other
specimens to Banks. He was continually called on for help in
developing the agriculture and trade of the colony, and his influence
was used in connection with the sending out of early free settlers,
one of whom, a young gardener
George Suttor , later wrote a memoir of
Banks. The three earliest governors of the colony,
Arthur Phillip ,
John Hunter , and
Philip Gidley King
Philip Gidley King , were in continual
correspondence with him. Banks produced a significant body of papers,
including one of the earliest Aboriginal Australian words lists
compiled by a European. Bligh was also appointed governor of New
South Wales on Banks's recommendation. Banks followed the explorations
Matthew Flinders ,
George Bass and Lieutenant James Grant , and
among his paid helpers were
George Caley , Robert Brown and Allan
However, Banks backed
William Bligh to be installed as the new
New South Wales and to crack down on the New South Wales
Corps (a.k.a. Rum Corps) which made a fortune on the trading of rum.
This brought him in direct confrontation with post-
Rum Rebellion de
facto leaders such as John Macarthur and George Johnston . This
backing led to the
Rum Rebellion in Sydney, whereby governor was
overthrown by the two men. This became an embarrassment for Sir Joseph
Banks also because years earlier he campaigned that John Macarthur not
be granted 10,000 acres of land near
Sydney in the cow pastures, which
was later granted by Lord Camden. The next governor, Lachlan Macquarie
was asked to arrest Macarthur and Johnston, only to realise that they
Sydney for London to defend themselves. What was humiliating
was that Macarthur and Johnston were acquitted from all charges in
London and both later returned to Sydney.
This 1812 print depicts Banks as president of the Royal Society
, wearing the insignia of the
Order of the Bath
Order of the Bath In The great
South Sea Caterpillar, transform'd into a Bath Butterfly (1795), James
Gillray caricatured Banks's investiture with the
Order of the Bath
Order of the Bath as
a result of his expedition.
Banks met the young
Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt in 1790, when Banks was
already the President of the Royal Society. Before Humboldt and his
scientific travel companion and collaborator
Aimé Bonpland left for
what became a five-year journal of exploration and discovery, Humboldt
requested a British passport for Bonpland, should the two encounter
British warships. On their travels, Humboldt arranged for specimens
be sent to Banks, should they be seized by the British. Banks and
Humboldt remained in touch until Banks's death, aiding Humboldt by
mobilizing his wide network of scientific contacts to forward
information to the great German scientist. Both men believed in the
internationalism of science.
Banks was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences in 1788. Among other activities, Banks found
time to serve as a trustee of the
British Museum for 42 years. He was
High Sheriff of
Lincolnshire in 1794.
He worked with Sir George Staunton in producing the official account
of the British mission to the
Chinese Imperial court . This diplomatic
and trade mission was headed by George, Earl Macartney . Although the
Macartney Embassy returned to London without obtaining any concession
from China, the mission could have been termed a success because it
brought back detailed observations. This multi-volume work was taken
chiefly from the papers of Lord Macartney and from the papers of Sir
Erasmus Gower , who was Commander of the expedition. Banks was
responsible for selecting and arranging engraving of the illustrations
in this official record.
Banks was invested as a Knight of the
Order of the Bath
Order of the Bath (KB) on 1
July 1795, which became
Knight Grand Cross
Knight Grand Cross (GCB) when the order was
restructured in 1815.
Banks's health began to fail early in the
19th century and he
suffered from gout every winter. After 1805 he practically lost the
use of his legs and had to be wheeled to his meetings in a chair, but
his mind remained as vigorous as ever. He had been a member of the
Society of Antiquaries nearly all his life, and he developed an
interest in archaeology in his later years. He was made an honorary
founding member of the
Wernerian Natural History Society of Edinburgh
in 1808. In 1809 he became associated member of the Royal Institute of
the Netherlands . In 1809, his friend Alexander Henry dedicated his
travel book to him. In May 1820 he forwarded his resignation as
president of the Royal Society, but withdrew it at the request of the
council. He died on 19 June 1820 in Spring Grove House,
London, and was buried at St Leonard's Church,
Heston . Lady Banks
survived him, but there were no children.
1967 Australian paper note obverse featuring
Joseph Banks by
Anne Seymour Damer ,
Portrait of Banks by
Thomas Phillips (1810).
Banks was a major supporter of the internationalist nature of
science, being actively involved both in keeping open the lines of
communication with continental scientists during the
Napoleonic Wars ,
and in introducing the
British people to the wonders of the wider
world. He was honoured with many place names in the South Pacific:
Banks Peninsula on the
South Island , New Zealand; the Banks Islands
Vanuatu ; the Banks Strait between
Tasmania and the
Furneaux Islands ;
Banks Island in the
Northwest Territories , Canada;
and the Sir
Joseph Banks Group in South Australia.
Canberra suburb of Banks , the electoral
Division of Banks , and
Sydney suburbs of Bankstown ,
Banksia and Banksmeadow are all
named after him. An image of Banks was featured on the Australian
paper $5 note before it was replaced by the later polymer currency.
Banks' house was used for the offices of the Zoological Society of
In 1986 Banks was honoured by his portrait being depicted on a
postage stamp issued by
Australia Post .
In Lincoln , England, The Sir
Joseph Banks Conservatory is located at
The Lawn, Lincoln adjacent to
Lincoln Castle . Its tropical hot house
has numerous plants related to Banks's voyages, with samples from
across the world, including Australia. A plaque was installed in
Lincoln Cathedral in his honour. In Boston,
Lincolnshire , Banks was
Recorder for the town. His portrait, painted in 1814 by Thomas
Phillips , was commissioned by the Corporation of Boston, as a tribute
to one whose 'judicious and active exertions improved and enriched
this borough and neighbourhood'. It cost them 100 guineas. The
portrait is now hanging in the Council Chamber of the Guildhall Museum
Joseph Banks Centre is located in Horncastle,
housed in a Grade II listed building which was recently restored by
the Heritage Trust of
Lincolnshire to celebrate Banks' life.
Horncastle is located a few miles from Banks' Revesby estate and the
naturalist was the town's Lord of the Manor. The centre is located in
Bridge Street. It boasts research facilities, historic links to
Australia, and a garden in which rare plants can be viewed and
Situated in the
Sydney suburb of Revesby , Sir
Joseph Banks High
School is a
NSW Government school named after Banks.
At the 2011
Chelsea Flower Show
Chelsea Flower Show , an exhibition garden celebrated the
historic link between Banks and the botanical discoveries of flora and
fauna on his journey through South America, Tahiti, New Zealand and
eventually Australia on Captain Cook's ship Endeavour. The competition
garden was the entry of Melbourne\'s Royal Botanic Gardens with an
Australian theme. It was based on the metaphorical journey of water
through the continent, related to the award-winning Australian Garden
Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne . The design won a gold
London County Council marked Banks' house at 32 Soho Square
with a blue plaque . This was replaced in 1938 with a rectangular
stone plaque commemorating Banks as well as botanists
David Don and
Robert Brown and meetings of the
Linnean Society .
Banks appears in the historical novel
Mutiny on the Bounty
Mutiny on the Bounty , by
Charles Nordhoff and
James Norman Hall . Banks appears briefly as a
contact with British naval intelligence in the historical novel Post
Captain , from the
Aubrey–Maturin series by Patrick O\'Brian . He is
also featured in
Elizabeth Gilbert 's 2013 best-selling novel,The
Signature of All Things. The standard author abbreviation BANKS is
used to indicate this individual as the author when citing a botanical
African Association , a British society led by Joseph Banks, which
was dedicated to the exploration of West Africa
European and American voyages of scientific exploration
European and American voyages of scientific exploration
* List of Notable Freemasons
History of Australia
* ^ Sir Joseph Banks, Baronet. Britannica.com. Retrieved on 22 June
* ^ O\'Brian, Patrick (1993) Joseph Banks: A Life. London: David R.
Godine , pp. 23–24, ISBN 0-87923-930-1 .
* ^ John Gascoigne, Banks, Sir Joseph, baronet (1743–1820),
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,
Oxford University Press,
September 2004 doi :10.1093/ref:odnb/1300 .
* ^ Banks was however awarded an honorary degree by Oxford
University upon his return from his voyage to the South Seas. See;
Banks, Sir Joseph,Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Scribner, 1970.
* ^ Jackson, John (October 2007). "Specialist Lodges". MQ Magazine
* ^ Tuck, Leslie. Montevecchi, William. Nuttall Ornithological Club
(1987). Newfoundland Birds, Exploitation, Study, Conservation, Harvard
* ^ A B C D E F G H Gilbert, L. A. (1966). "Banks, Sir Joseph
Australian Dictionary of Biography , Volume 1. MUP .
pp. 52–55. Retrieved 6 November 2007.
* ^ Lysaght, Averil M. (1971)
Joseph Banks in Newfoundland and
Labrador, 1766 Berkeley:
University of California Press
University of California Press , p. 168, ISBN
* ^ Digital Collection, National Library of Australia
* ^ Catalogue, National Library of Australia, accessed February
* ^ Richard Holmes (2009). The Age of Wonder. HarperPress. , p. 10.
Holmes incorrectly states that Green's first name was William, not
* ^ Holmes 2008 , pp. 1-54.
* ^ Colley, Linda (2009), "Men at arms", The Guardian, 7 November
* ^ Holmes 2008 , pp. 54.
* ^ Susan Reynolds (editor)
Heston and Isleworth, A History of the
County of Middlesex: Volume 3: Victoria County History, 1962
* ^ "No. 12172".
The London Gazette . 20 March 1781. p. 5.
* ^ Journals of the House of Commons, 19 Geo. III, 1779, Vol. 37,
* ^ 1414, scheme=AGLSTERMS.AglsAgent; corporateName=State Library
of New South Wales; address=Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000;
contact=+61 2 9273 (2016-06-29). "Sir
Joseph Banks Collection".
www.sl.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
* ^ Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's
New World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf 2015, p. 19.
* ^ Wulf, The Invention of Nature, p. 44.
* ^ Wulf, The Invention of Nature, p. 76.
* ^ Wulf, The Invention of Nature, p. 136.
* ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American
Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
* ^ Anderson, R. G. W. (2008). "
Joseph Banks and the British
Museum, The World of Collecting, 1770–1830". Journal of the History
of Collections. 20: 151. doi :10.1093/jhc/fhm040 .
* ^ Banks, Joseph. Papers of Sir Joseph Banks; Section 12: Lord
Macartney's embassy to China; Series 62: Papers concerning publication
of the account of Lord Macartney\'s Embassy to China, ca 1797.
* ^ "No. 13792".
The London Gazette . 30 June 1795. p. 688.
* ^ "No. 16972".
The London Gazette . 4 January 1815. pp. 17–20.
* ^ "Sir
Joseph Banks (1743–1820)". Royal Netherlands Academy of
Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
* ^ Flinders, Matthew (1966) . A Voyage to Terra Australis :
undertaken for the purpose of completing the discovery of that vast
country, and prosecuted in the years 1801, 1802, and 1803 in His
Majesty\'s ship the Investigator, and subsequently in the armed vessel
Porpoise and Cumberland Schooner; with an account of the shipwreck of
the Porpoise, arrival of the Cumberland at Mauritius, and imprisonment
of the commander during six years and a half in that island.
(Facsimile ed.). Adelaide; Reprint of: London : G. and W. Nicol, 1814
ed. In two volumes, with an Atlas (3 volumes): Libraries Board of
South Australia. p. 234. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
* ^ Australian 90c postal stamp. JPG image.
* ^ Gadd, Denise (25 May 2011). "In full bloom at Chelsea". The
Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
* ^ "BANKS, SIR JOSEPH (1743–1820), BROWN, ROBERT (1773–1858),
DON, DAVID (1800–1841)". English Heritage. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
* ^ IPNI . Banks.
* State Library of
New South Wales . Papers of Sir
Joseph Banks and
The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks, 1768–1771
National Library of Australia (NLA). Papers of Sir Joseph Banks
Royal Geographical Society of South Australia Journal of a voyage
Newfoundland and Labrador commencing 7 April and ending 17 November
* Carter, Harold Burnell (1988) Sir Joseph Banks, 1743–1820
British Museum of Natural History ISBN 0-565-00993-1 ;
* Durt, Tania (2007) "Joseph Banks", pp. 173–181 in The Great
Naturalists, edited by Robert Huxley. London: Thames & Hudson with the
Natural History Museum.
* Fara, Patricia (2004) Sex,
Botany Byron, John ; Wallis, Samuel ;
Carteret, Philip ; Cook, James ; Banks, Joseph (1773). An account of
the voyages undertaken by the order of His present Majesty for making
discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, and successively performed by
Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook,
in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour drawn up from the
journals which were kept by the several commanders, and from the
papers of Joseph Banks, esq. London Printed for W. Strahan and T.
Cadell. , Volume I, Volume II-III
* Holmes, Richard (2008) '
Joseph Banks in Paradise', in The Age of
Wonder : How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror
of Science. Vintage Books, N