SKU SF000764 Category


Mezzotint, based on portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. London 1774

Joseph Banks was born in 1743, the only son of a wealthy land-owning family. From an early age, his declared passion was natural history, and in particular, botany. In 1766 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and travelled to Newfoundland and Labrador to collect plants, animals and rocks.

Banks joined Captain Cook’s 1768 expedition to Tahiti and made collections and observations in South America, Tahiti and New Zealand before reaching Australia. His main landfalls on the eastern coast of Australia were at Botany Bay and the Endeavour River. The plant material collected and sorted on the voyage was extensive, with the herbarium specimens accounting for about 110 new genera and 1,300 new species.

Bank’s name was bestowed upon a genus of Australian plants and his impact on the study of natural history in both Britain and Australia cannot be overestimated. When the British government was casting about for a suitable place to establish a penal colony, Banks was an advocate for Botany Bay. In later life, including the running of his estates, he controlled the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and was a Trustee of the British Museum. In 1778 he also became President of the Royal Society, an office which he held until his death in 1820. He was knighted in 1781.

Additional information



Sir Joshua Reynolds


Ink, Paper