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Friday, 10 February 2012

Joseph Banks

Sir Joseph Banks  (1743-1820) was wealthy and able to indulge his interest in science; he was a passionate and skilful botanist and this took him on several major expeditions at his own expense.

In 1768 Banks learnt had learned that the British explorer James Cook planned to sail to the south Pacific in the Endeavour to observe the transit of Venus and to seek evidence of the postulated Terra Australis Incognita or "unknown southern land". He joined the expedition, which lasted 3 years, with his staff of eight, and returned with a large collection of new specimens to find himself a celebrity.

The voyage was the first to be organised and equipped for biological work, even though the Government's secret plan was political - to secure a territorial advantage over the French.

On board the Endeavour there were 17 sheep, 4 South sea Hogs, an English boar, its sow and a litter of piglets.

Banks' collection and classification of biological specimens as a member of the expedition helped establish botany as an academic discipline.

Banks was the first European to report a description of a kangaroo.

He brought back 1300 new plant species and is credited with the introduction to the Western world of eucalyptus, acacia, mimosa and the genus named after him, Banksia.

It was Banks who suggested the idea that Botany Bay in Australia would form a suitable penal settlement.

Banks did much to establish the Botanic Garden at Kew, which he planned as a major collecting centre and source of advice on all aspects of plants.

Source Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999.

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