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Sir Joseph Banks

Sir Joseph Banks

Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) was an English traveler and animal and plant breeder, but most of all a scientific promoter. His whole adult life was directed toward the advancement of science.

Joseph Banks, born on Feb. 13, 1743, in London, was the son of William Banks of Revesby Abbey, Lincolnshire. At age 9 Joseph entered Harrow; 4 years later he transferred to Eton, where at age 15 he started a lifelong interest in natural history. He entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1761, but he found botanical studies so stagnant that he had to go to Cambridge for tutoring.

In 1764 Banks began his travels. He collected plants in Newfoundland, toured western England and observed its natural and human history, and then in 1768 embarked on the Endeavour on Capt. James Cook's first voyage of exploration in the Pacific. Although most of the results of Banks's expeditions were never published, these findings did seep into the general body of knowledge through his key positions in science and his personal generosity in allowing people to use his materials.

After 1772 Banks became increasingly involved in administering scientific undertakings in England; his personal botanical collections, which were to become the finest private ones in England, consumed some time, however. By the mid-1770s Banks was supervising the collection and propagation of plants from all over the world at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. In 1778 he became president of the Royal Society. For the next 42 years he presided over the scientific academy, developed an acquaintance with most branches of science, and became one of the most distinguished members of the scientific community. He encouraged and administered George III's introduction of Merino sheep into England between 1788 and 1820.

Banks used his considerable power and influence beneficently. During the dark years between 1789 and 1815, when the English government was almost exclusively concerned about surviving the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, Banks helped plan and looked after the interests of New South Wales, Australia, in London. On several occasions he also intervened with his own government and Napoleon's to protect scientists and their property against seizure.

Further Reading

Banks's personal papers were widely scattered in the 1880s but are slowly coming into print. See, for example, Warren R. Dawson, ed., The Banks Letters: A Calendar of the Manuscript Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks … in Great Britain (1958). A major collection of material on Banks is in the Sutro Library of the California State Library, San Francisco Branch, which issued some material in New Source Material on Sir Joseph Banks and Iceland (1941). J.C. Beaglehole, ed., The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks, 1768-1771 (2 vols., 1962), is a model for other editors to follow.

A recent biography of Banks is Hector C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, The Autocrat of the Philosophers (1952). Older, but also of value, is Edward Smith, The Life of Sir Joseph Banks (1911). □

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Banks, Sir Joseph

Banks, Sir Joseph (1743–1820). Explorer, and for over forty years president of the Royal Society. Educated at Harrow, Eton, and Christ Church, Oxford, Banks developed an extra-curricular interest in botany. Graduating in 1763, instead of going on a grand tour, he sailed to Newfoundland and Labrador on HMS Niger. Inheriting great wealth in land in 1764, he resolved to join Captain Cook's voyage to observe Venus from Tahiti and then to search for the unknown southern continent (1768–71). Accompanied by a staff including artists and the botanist Carl Solander, he observed ethnography and botany in Tahiti, New Zealand, and New South Wales. Returning a hero, he was in 1778 elected president of the Royal Society, holding the office to his death. Having learned his science as one of a large and expensive team involving the armed forces, not unlike modern ‘big science’, he spent his working life administering it. Seeing unity as strength, putting down what he saw as rival institutions, but promoting the Royal Institution, Kew Gardens, and the colonization of Australia, he became the formidable autocrat of science in Regency Britain.

David Knight

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"Banks, Sir Joseph." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Banks, Sir Joseph." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/banks-sir-joseph

"Banks, Sir Joseph." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved May 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/banks-sir-joseph

Banks, Sir Joseph

Sir Joseph Banks, 1743–1820, British naturalist and patron of the sciences. He accompanied Capt. James Cook on his voyage around the world and made large collections of biological specimens, most of which were previously unclassified. Botany Bay was named on this voyage. In 1772, Banks went on an expedition to Iceland. From c.1762 until his death, he was the chief influence in inaugurating and directing the policies that made Kew Gardens an important botanical center for encouraging exploration and experimentation. In 1766 he was elected to the Royal Society, and he served as its president from 1778 until his death. The plant genus Banksia was named for him.

See studies by H. C. Cameron (1952, repr. 1966), A. M. Lysaght (1971), and A. Wulf (2009).

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"Banks, Sir Joseph." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Banks, Sir Joseph." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/banks-sir-joseph

Banks, Sir Joseph

Banks, Sir Joseph (1743–1820) A British explorer (he sailed around the world with James Cook), who was a noted patron of science and did much to promote research and sent botanical expeditions to many countries. During his voyage on the Endeavour he named Botany Bay. His herbarium, now in the possession of the Natural History Museum (formerly the British Museum (Natural History)), and his books and manuscripts, now divided between the British Library and the Natural History Museum, are of major importance. He was honorary director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, became president of the Royal Society in 1778, and was knighted in 1795.

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"Banks, Sir Joseph." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Banks, Sir Joseph." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/banks-sir-joseph

"Banks, Sir Joseph." A Dictionary of Plant Sciences. . Retrieved May 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/banks-sir-joseph

Banks, Sir Joseph

Banks, Sir Joseph (1743–1820) English botanist. He was the senior scientist of the group who sailed to Tahiti with Captain James Cook aboard HMS Endeavour in 1768. At Botany Bay, Australia, Banks collected (1770) examples of plants hitherto unknown in Europe, including the shrub banksia named in his honour. Upon his return, he helped establish the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, w London, and financed several international plant-collecting expeditions. In 1778 he became president of the Royal Society.

http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/banks

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"Banks, Sir Joseph." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/banks-sir-joseph