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Joseph Banks

Joseph Banks

Wedgwood medallion of Joseph Banks

Joseph Banks (1743–1820) was an English botanist and patron of science. Wealthy and well-connected, Banks used his contacts at the Royal Society to join Cook's Pacific voyage in 1768.

Banks spent £10,000, a huge sum at the time, to engage and equip his party of eight naturalists, artists and servants to gather, study and preserve specimens found along the way.

On his return to Britain with thousands of plants, animals and artefacts never before seen in Europe, Banks was feted by the scientific community and presented to the King.

Left: The Wedgwood medallion of Joseph Banks dates from about 1775–80. Photo: George Serras.

A pair of Wedgwood portraits which show Joseph Banks with his wife Lady Dorothea.

Banks was the subject of several later Wedgwood portraits, including this pair which shows him with his wife Lady Dorothea. Courtesy: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Portrait of Joseph Banks surrounded by the ethnographic artefacts collected on the Endeavour voyage.

 

Banks became a powerful figure in Britain, leading the Royal Society and establishing Kew Gardens to collect and cultivate exotic plants from around the world. He promoted the idea of a penal settlement at Botany Bay in New South Wales. Through a stream of correspondence with government officials, explorers and collectors, Banks exerted considerable influence on the colony's early development.


Left: This portrait of Joseph Banks shows him surrounded by the ethnographic artefacts collected on the Endeavour voyage. By Benjamin West. Courtesy: Lincolnshire County Council, Usher Gallery, Lincoln, UK/ The Bridgeman Art Library.


Cartoon by James Gillray that makes fun of Joseph Banks becoming a Knight of the Order of the Bath in 1795.

 

 

Left: This cartoon by James Gillray makes fun of Joseph Banks becoming a Knight of the Order of the Bath in 1795. By James Gillray. Courtesy: National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an6589578.