Joseph Banks (1743-1820)

Duke, Norman C. (2011) Joseph Banks (1743-1820). In: Hopley, David, (ed.) Encyclopedia of Modern Coral Reefs. Structure, Form and Process. Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series . Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 96-97.

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[Extract] BANKS, JOSEPH (1743-1820)

Banks, a founding father of natural science and Australia, was born at London, Great Britain, on 13 February 1743, the only son of a wealthy landowner. He married Dorothea Hugesson on 23 March 1779. He died in Isleworth, London, on 19 June 1820, aged 77. Banks devoted his entire adult life toward the advancement of science.

Returning triumphant from Captain Cook's first great voyage in 1771, the young Banks was famously dubbed 'The Botanic Macaroni' and 'The great South Sea caterpillar'. Over the next 50 years, however, this satiric 'caterpillar' was transformed the 'Bath Butterfly' by his 1795 royal investiture as Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. He is honoured for remarkable achievements in an era of enlightened human endeavour with his: knighthood (1781); membership of the Privy Council (1797); and, unmatched four decade term as President of the Royal Society (1778-1820). Banks galvanized the great scientific minds of his time, systematised natural history collection and promoted foundation projects. His early credentials were botanical collections (in the British Museum) from expeditions to: Labrador and Newfoundland (1766-1767); the southern ocean with Captain Cook (1768-1771); and, Iceland and the New Hebrides (1772). Subsequently, he funded and encouraged others to gather and catalogue specimens of plants and animals throughout the world. Using his unofficial directorship of Kew Gardens in London to explore economic and social benefits of plants, he created one of the world's great public gardens. Banks was a natural leader, a rare individual with no political leanings or ambitions. While a favourite of King George III, he maintained a friendly correspondence with Benjamin Franklin in revolutionary America. He did not discriminate between British and foreign scientists. He helped maintain scientific relations with France during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Banks was greatly respected by Carl Linnaeus whom devised the binomial naming system used today for all plants and animals. Banks applied the Linnaean method to his burgeoning museum collections. From 1772 to 1820, his collectors voyaged to Cape of Good Hope (Francis Masson, James Bowie); West Africa (Mungo Park); the East Indies (Mungo Park); South America (Allan Cunningham); India (Anton Hove); Australia (David Burton, George Caley, Robert Brown, Allan Cunningham, George Suttor). David Nelson went on Cook's third voyage (1776-1780) and with Bligh on the 'Bounty' (1787-1788). Archibald Menzies collected for Vancouver's north American voyage (1791-1795).

It is not surprising that more than 80 plant species bear his name, including that renowned Proteaceous genus, Banksia. His patronage of municipal works and voyages of discovery assured his name also dots maps of Britain, North America, the Pacific islands and Australia. Australia, as New South Wales, was much influenced by his patronage. Banks was a leading authority and advisor to the British government. In 1779, he recommended Botany Bay for convict settlement. In 1780, he organised surveys by Matthew Flinders who mapped and named Australia for the first time. Banks communicated with each of the four early governors. Practically anyone who had an interest in early Australia consulted Sir Joseph Banks.

Item ID: 48517
Item Type: Book Chapter (Creative Work)
ISBN: 978-90-481-2638-5
Keywords: Joseph Banks; biography; Great Britain; James Cook; Carl Linnaeus; botanical nomenclature; early Australia
Date Deposited: 08 May 2017 23:43
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2199 Other History and Archaeology > 219999 History and Archaeology not elsewhere classified @ 50%
22 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 2202 History and Philosophy of Specific Fields > 220206 History and Philosophy of Science (incl Non-historical Philosophy of Science) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
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