Sir Joseph Banks was an eminent English naturalist, explorer and botanist, noted for his promotion of natural sciences. He also remains the longest serving president of the Royal Society of London.
Early Life and Education:
Born in London on January 4, 1743 in a rich family, Joseph Banks inherited a sizeable fortune when his father, William Banks, a famous doctor, died. He took admission in Christ Church, Oxford, in 1760. When he left the college in 1763, he had an extensive knowledge of natural history, particularly of botany.
Contributions and Achievements:
Joseph Banks was selected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1766. He joined Captain Cook on his 1763 voyage around the world. Dr. Solander, a friend of Banks, also accompanied him as a naturalist. After their return, both wanted to publish a botanical work as they had acquired huge collections of natural objects from the expedition. Due to Solander’s unexpected death, they were unable to complete it. Banks also toured Iceland in 1772.
Banks became the president of the Royal Society in 1777, where he remained until 1820. He was known as a prominent endorser of travelers and scientific men. Many voyages of discovery were approved and carried out under his supervision. He was the first person to introduce the Western world to acacia, mimosa, eucalyptus and Banksia, a genus named after him. About 80 other species of plants were also named after him. Banks also established the fact that marsupial mammals were more primitive than placental mammals.
Joseph Banks was knighted in 1781. He was made a member of the Privy Council in 1797. He was also appointed an associate of the Institute of France In 1802. Two of his most famous publications include “Short Account of the Cause of the Disease in Corn called the Blight, the Mildew, and the Rust,” (1803) and “Circumstances relative to Metino Sheep” (1809).
Later Life and Death:
Joseph Banks died in London in 1820. He was 77 years old and left no family. Banks was buried at St Leonard’s Church, Heston.