Australian Flora and Fauna
1743 Today is the birthday of Joseph Banks.
Banks is best known for his study of Australian flora and fauna and his role as the botanist on board the Endeavor with Captain James Cook.
When they landed in Australia, neither Cook nor Banks realized that the quartz reef where they planted the British Flag contained gold. The area would remain untouched by Europeans for almost two more decades.
Before returning to England, Cook worried the Endeavor wouldn't make it around the Cape of Good Hope.
In a fateful decision, Cook had brought the ship to Batavia, a Dutch colony, to fortify his boat. Batavia was a dangerous place where malaria and dysentery were rampant. As a result of his stop, Cook lost a staggering 38 members of his crew. Banks, and a fellow botanist Daniel Solander, managed to survive the stop, although, at one point, they were both gravely ill. Even as they battled back from illness, they still went out to collect specimens.
As gardeners, we owe a great debt to Banks.
When he returned to England, it was Joseph Banks who advised George III on the creation of the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew.
And, in 1778, when Linnaeus died, his belongings went up for sale. By then, Joseph Banks was the President of the Linnean Society. Joseph acted quickly, buying everything of horticultural value on behalf of the society. Linnaeus' notebooks and specimens were on a ship bound for England by the time the king of Sweden realized Linnaeus' legacy was no longer in Sweden. He sent a fast Navy ship in pursuit of Banks' precious cargo, but it was too late. And so, Banks secured the legacy of Linnaeus, which is why Linnaeus's collection is in London at the Linnaeus Society's Burlington House.
And, Banks helped spread Linnaeus's ideas across the globe, which was easier for him to accomplish since he was based in London, the hub for the science of botany.
At his London residence, Banks hired the Scottish botanist Robert Brown to be his botanical librarian. The two became lifelong friends. So much so, that when Banks died in 1820, he left his home, his collections, and his library to Brown, and he also endowed him with a sizeable yearly allowance.