Sir Joseph Banks: Endeavour
Sir Joseph Banks remains to this day one of the most important figures both in the history of science and in the history of Great Britain.
Yet despite the significant role he played in promoting science for the benefit of mankind, today Banks finds himself in the shadow of some of his more famous contemporaries: Charles Darwin and Captain James Cook for instance. This however does not give him the credit he deserves.
Joseph Banks was born in 1743 to a very wealthy family. Following the early death of his father, he became a very wealthy landowner at the young age of 21, owning properties stretching from Lincolnshire down to Sussex.
Banks decided to use his inheritance to promote the study of plants, having had an interest in botany ever since he was fourteen years old. He soon gained a reputation in the botany field and was elected to the Royal Society when just 23.
Two years later, in 1768, Banks was given the opportunity to journey to the Pacific aboard HMS Endeavour alongside Captain Cook on his maiden voyage. During this expedition, Banks became a botanical collector, gathering some thirty thousand plant specimens.
Of these, he discovered 1,400 new species, with no less than four hundred of these coming from Botany Bay in Australia alone.
Upon his return to Britain, Banks became one of the great celebrities of the time, holding the prestigious position of President of the Royal Society for over 41 years and playing a key role in the enriching of Kew Gardens, turning it into the leading botanical institution in the world.
In this mini film, Sir David Attenborough talks about the 18th century explorer and naturalist, explaining why he deserves to be ranked among the most important scientists in recent history.Duration: 12 Min