Mezzotint, Proof before Letters.

Published London 1822

Samuel Reynolds (1773-1835), engraver, and Samuel Cousins (1801-1887), engraver, after the painting by Thomas Phillips (1770-1845).



Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), naturalist and patron of science, was educated at Harrow and Eton, followed by Christ Church, Oxford. After his father died in 1761, blessed with considerable means, he left Oxford without taking a degree and chose to devote his leisure to natural science. in 1766 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society and was president from 1778 until his death. He was created a baronet in 1781, appointed K.C.B. in 1795, and a member of the Privy Council in 1797.

When in 1768 the Royal Society persuaded the Admiralty to send James Cook in command of an expedition in August 1768 to observe the transit of Venus, it urged that Joseph Banks… a Gentleman of large fortune… well versed in natural history’ should be permitted to join the expedition ‘with his Suite’. On returning from the epic voyage and the famous discovery of the East Australian coast, Banks and Solander were presented to George III and the huge collections of seeds, plants, shells, insects, bottled specimens, native implements and reams of notes and drawings were taken to Banks’ London house. Under royal patronage, Banks founded Kew Gardens and the establishment of a great collection of exotics from all over the world. It has been estimated that during George III’s reign alone, some 7000 new exotic plants were introduced into England, chiefly by Banks.

In 1779 when the government was searching for a new location for a penal settlement, Banks strongly recommended Botany Bay as a suitable place. Banks became the acknowledged  authority on New South Wales and corresponded with all the governors from Phillip to Macquarie. In his last years Banks was crippled by gout, yet he remained, even in his wheelchair, a venerable and formidable figure, especially when presiding at the Royal Society in full court dress and wearing the Order of the Bath. He died at his house on 19 June 1820, and was buried in Heston church, near Hounslow. He had no children. Due to his keen interest in the colony, Banks has been called ‘the Father of Australia’.

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Reynolds and Cousins