Sir Joseph Banks, Old Etonian, 1st Baronet, GCB, PRS (24 February [O.S. 13 February] 1743 – 19 June 1820) was an English naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences. He took part in Captain James Cook‘s first great voyage (1768–1771). Banks is credited with the introduction to the Western world of eucalyptus, acacia, mimosa and the genus named after him, Banksia. Approximately 80 species of plants bear Banks’s name. Banks was also the leading founder of the African Association, a British organization dedicated to the exploration of Africa, and a member of the Society of Dilettanti, which helped to establish the Royal Academy.
Banks and the Endeavour Voyage
Banks was appointed to a joint Royal Navy/Royal Society scientific expedition to the south Pacific Ocean on HM Bark Endeavour, 1768–1771. This was the first of James Cook’s voyages of discovery in that region. This 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 and at Endeavour River (near modern Cooktown) in Queensland, where they spent almost seven weeks ashore while the ship was repaired after foundering on the Great Barrier Reef. While they were in Australia Banks, the Swedish botanist 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.
Sex, Botany and Empire. Patricia Fara.