Sir Joseph Banks
Australia Crest

Banks was born in February 1743 into a wealthy family and had the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth.

When he was nine his father sent him to Harrow and when he showed no signs of learning anything there his father then packed him off to Eton.

He then went to Oxford but his father died when Banks was 18, leaving him a large fortune. At Oxford he set up his own school of botany on resolving to devote his life to the study of plants.

In 1766 he was elected to the Royal Society, a rare honour for someone so young. He also went to Newfoundland and Labrador that year, gathering an impressive collecion of plant life.

He was then selected to accompany James Cook to Tahiti to observe the transit of the planet Venus. His brief was to observe how this phenomenon affected animals, the soil and plant life. He was also to collect the seeds of trees, fruits and grains.

On the morning of April 19th, 1770 the crew of the Endeavour sighted the east coast of Australia. Anchoring in Botany Bay, Banks, Cook and Swedish naturalist Daniel Solander went ashore to explore the plant life.

The expedition then moved up the east coast with Cook charting the coast and naming the headlands. Finally, after negotiating the perils of the Great Barrier Reef, the Endeavour headed for home, with an admirable collection of plant specimens on board.

Sir Joseph Banks
Sir Joseph Banks

Banks later became president of the Royal Society and he strongly advocated the use of Botany Bay as a penal settlement.

It was on Banks' recommendation that William Bligh became Governor of the colony in 1806 and it was to Banks that Bligh wrote an account of the Rum Rebellion.

Banks had also recommended the previous Governor, Philip Gidley King. Such was the power of the man. He also encouraged Matthew Flinders to circumnavigate Australia in the early 1800s.

Banks died on June 19th, 1820 and many consider him to be the "Father of Australia".

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