|As an independent
naturalist, Banks participated in a voyage to Newfoundland and Labrador in
1767. Although he did not publish an account of this expedition, he
allowed others full use of his collection. In the same year he was elected
a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquities. In 1778
he was elected President of the Royal Society, a position he held with
varying degrees of support, until his death in 1820. He remains the
longest serving President in the history of the Royal Society, founded
almost 350 years ago.
He successfully lobbied the Royal Society to be
included on what was to be James Cook's first great voyage of discovery,
on board the Endeavour (1768-1771). This voyage marked the
beginning of Banks' lifelong friendship and collaboration with the Swedish
naturalist Daniel Solander, one of Linnaeus' most esteemed pupils, and the
beginning of Banks' lifelong advocacy of British settlement in New South
Wales. The Endeavour had sailed into Botany Bay in April 1770 and
proceeded up the east coast and through Torres Strait, charting the east
coast of Australia in the process.
Frustrated in his attempt at a second voyage to
the South Seas, again with Cook, Banks set off in July 1772 for Iceland,
his only other venture outside Europe.
From this time, Banks was actively involved in
almost every aspect of Pacific exploration and early Australian colonial
life. He was interested and involved in Cook's later voyages, despite his
disappointing withdrawal from the seond voyage. He actively supported the
proposal of Botany Bay as a site for British settlement. He proposed
William Bligh to command two voyages for the transportation of breadfruit
and other plants, including the ill-fated voyage on the Bounty
which ended in mutiny in April 1789.
He had a role in choosing the governors of the
settlement in New South Wales, founded in January 1788 with the arrival of
the First Fleet. It was Banks who later recommended Bligh to succeed
Philip Gidley King as the fourth Governor of New South Wales, Bligh's
governorship ending in deposition during the Rum Rebellion in 1808. Banks
corresponded with the first four Governors of New South Wales who, while
they reported officially to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, also
reported privately and therefore more intimately and openly to Banks.
Practically anyone who wanted to travel to New
South Wales, in almost any capacity, consulted Sir Joseph Banks. He was
the one constant throughout the first 30 years of white settlement in
Australia, through changes of ministers, government and policy.
Banks organised Matthew Flinders' voyage on the Investigator
(1801-1803) which helped define the map of Australia. He had connections
with Sir George Macartney's embassy to China (1792-1794), and with George
Vancouver's epic voyage to the north-west coast of America (1791-1795).
He sent botanists to all parts of the world,
including New South Wales, often at his own expense. Their collections
were added to both Kew Gardens and to Banks' own collections. His
collectors voyaged to the Cape of Good Hope (Francis Masson and James
Bowie); West Africa (Mungo Park); the East Indies (Mungo Park); South
America (Allan Cunningham); India (Anton Hove); Australia (David Burton,
George Caley, Robert Brown, Allan Cunningham, George Suttor). David Nelson
was sent on Cook's third voyage and Archibald Menzies was sent on
King George III had appointed Banks adviser to
the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew some time after his return from the
Pacific. His informal role as governmental adviser on a range of issues
was recognised in 1797 with his appointment to the Privy Council. He
served as a member of the committees on trade and on coin. In his capacity
as President of the Royal Society he was also involved in the activities
of the Board of Longitude and the Greenwich Royal Observatory, the Board
of Agriculture (founded in 1793) and the African Association (founded in
1788). He was also a Trustee of the British Museum.
In addition to the Banks family estates in
Lincolnshire, Banks acquired his main London residence at 32 Soho Square
in 1776. It was established as his London home and scientific base. His
natural history collections were housed there and made freely available to
bona fide scientists and researchers. Until his death, this house was a
centre for the wider scientific community. He did not discriminate between
British and foreign scientists. He was, in fact, influential in
maintaining scientific relations with France, for example, during the
French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1819 he was appointed Chairman to two
committees established by the House of Commons, one to enquire into
prevention of banknote forgery, the other to consider systems of weights
Banks was created a baronet in 1781 and invested
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1795. In March 1779, he had
married Dorothea Hugessen (1758-1828), daughter and heiress of William
Western Hugessen. They had no children.
Sir Joseph Banks died on 19 June 1820.
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