We use cookies on this website. To use the website as intended please accept cookies.

Wednesday April 17 , 2024

Blue Daisy Blog

Blue Daisy blog written by Nicki Jackson & Jules Clark - for news, views, garden design, gardening and plant observations and thoughts.

Joseph Banks (1743-1820) - A Brief Introduction

Posted by on in Influential Horticulturalists
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 14346
  • Subscribe to this entry
  • Print

Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) - one of the most important figures in British horticulture of the 18th Century.

Sir Joseph Banks

Joseph Banks was born into a wealthy family of landowners in Lincolnshire; his father was also a Member of the House of Commons. Banks’ love of nature and botany started at an early age as a school boy at Eton, later he studied at Oxford University where his ambition to become the leader in all areas of natural history and in particular botany began to flourish.

In 1761 Banks’ father died, he inherited an immense fortune and became the Squire and a local magistrate.  This meant he spent a lot of time travelling between London and Chelsea where his mother lived; he continued to visit the Chelsea Physic Gardens and the British museum keeping his interest in science alive.  During this time he began to network with other scientists listening and expanding his understanding of science.  He also began to correspond with Carl Linnaeus who devised a method of plant classification for people around the world. It was these men who in April 1766 were so impressed by Banks, nominated him as a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) at the age of 23.

Also in April of 1766 Banks set sail on HMS Niger with an old friend from Eton, Constantine John Phipps now a navel lieutenant who was very interested in exploration.  He jumped at the chance to join Banks and it is said it was he who negotiated passage with the naval vessel to Labrador and Newfoundland.

Banks’ critics pointed out that his Fellowship of the RHS came about due to his wealth and position within society.  He could justifiably prove that he was an academically trained botanist however; it was the extent and quality of his collections from his exploration of Newfoundland and Labrador that established him as a first-rate collector.

Joseph Banks

In February of 1767 he attended the RHS first meeting and he had access to and befriended some of the most advanced horticultural minds in the country.  He spent a lot of his time in stimulating conversation which continued to raise his profile and his social engagements too!  It wasn’t long before he began to feel restless and in 1768 he set sail with Captain James Cook on the HMS Endeavour on a joint Royal Navy and RHS scientific expedition to the South Pacific Ocean.  During this voyage he visited many countries Brazil, Tahiti, New Zealand and the East coast of Australia to name but a few.  Upon his return in 1771 he accumulated a huge trove of plant and animal specimens and he and the crew returned as heroes, him especially, he was now famous in his own right.  Almost 800 specimens were illustrated by Sydney Parkinson in “Banks’ Florilegium” (finally published as 35 volumes between 1980 and 1990) it was the discoveries on this voyage that will remain as one of Banks’ main legacies.

In 1772 he led an expedition to Scotland and Iceland and in 1773 he visited South Wales accompanied by an artist who produced numerous illustrations, returning from both with many botanical specimens to add to his prized and growing collections.   In 1772 he bought a house at 32 Soho Square in London which was to be his home for the rest of his life.  In the heart of the building was his huge scientific library said to be the finest of its kind, he also had a very large herbarium, a museum, mineral collection, insects, fish, shells, birds and animals, scientific instruments and artefacts from his travels also the many drawings and paintings.  His house was always open to men of science and travellers who marvelled at his collection, on Sunday evening’s women were invited!

In 1773 he became an adviser to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew which flourished under his leadership; he dispatched explorers and botanists all around the world in search of economically useful species.  In 1778 he was elected as President of the RHS and an informal adviser to Kind George III.  In 1797 this arrangement was formalised and he was appointed to the Privy Council, Banks’ knowledge and understanding of the links between botany and the economy was to prove very important.   In this year he also became the official Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew which under his care became one of the leading botanical gardens in the world. 

Banks died in 1820 after supervising the first circumnavigation of Australia and becoming an inaugural member of the RHS.  It is true that Banks has been and will continue to be one of the most influential botanists and scientists of his day; he did reach and exceed his ambition set as a young man whilst at Oxford University.  His extensive collections which are his legacy are a valuable resource; they are still studied today and help us to understand our colonial past. 

Hobhouse, P. (2004) The Story of Gardening. Dorling Kindersley Limited.
Lyte, C. (1980) Sir Joseph Banks 18th Century Explorer. Botanist and Entrepreneur. David & Charles Inc.

Tagged in: Joseph Banks RHS

Nicki Jackson is Blue Daisy's garden designer & owner. A former HR consultant Nicki still finds the time to run Blue Daisy, design gardens and planting plans, write a blog, keep our gardening clients happy and offer IIP advice and outplacement support through Blue Daisy Consultancy.

Author's recent posts


  • No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

Leave your comment

Guest Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Blog Categories

Tag Cloud

Euphorbia Phyllostachys nigra kerb-side appeal Mrs Loudon Lawrence Johnston John Massey vertical garden career in horticulture Nicki Jackson Garden Planning wild flowers water butt recycled materials Selfridges Roof Garden London legacy gift Sophie Raworth Daffodils February garden Levens Hall Horticulturalist April garden cottage garden show gardens garden Herb garden stonemarket RHS Malvern RHS Hampton Court Kelmarsh Hall colour in your garden Herb Absorb pollution composting Bamboo garden design CorTen Echinacea Cambridge botanical garden eco-friendly Snowdrops water RHS Tatton Park summer garden Gardeners World July garden March garden Berginia James Wong Monty Don Geranium Chris Beardshaw Blue Daisy Trees wildlife build terracota spring bulbs Chelsea Flower Show Joe Swift Taxus Laurel movement in the garden November garden HNC timber pollinators bulb display snow hard landscaping women and work award Stone Lane Gardens Matt James Ashwood Nurseries Horticultural garden focal points edible garden show National Trust Prince Harry Joseph Banks winner New York Highline patio sweat peas Acuba Perennial birch RHS structure rococo Charlie Dimmock pollinating insects front garden Malvern Hills February productive garden Seed sowing garden advice at home heatwave traditional style ornamental grasses January garden surfaces winter garden rainwater harvesting HTA Birmingham Library green spaces Decking paving Briza maxima house plants garden design tip Winter shrubs Wildflowers Lantra Berberis Cloches Hosta Jekka McVicar Tom Hart-Dyke deer Hidcote planning your garden Spring shrubs grow your own cottage gardens herbs Stoneleigh Horticulture unity Urban Heat Island Events & Shows roof gardens Urban Heat Island Effect water conservation ash Moss Bank Park Kew Gardens gardening on tv rosemary water feature plants pests Glasshouse contemporary garden room cyclamen Capability Brown ha ha rock gardens Alan Titchmarsh August garden plant pots Cut flowers BBC Great British Garden Revival Chelsea Physic Garden sound in the garden twitter Cosmos astrosanguineus Highgrove Carol Klein topiary sorbus acer Toby Buckland sunflowers bulbs Fleece Rachel de Thame Wisley bees scented shrubs lawn care courtyard RHS Chelsea kitchen garden basil Narcissus Kensington Roof Garden spring garden CorTen steel Joanna Lumley hosepipe watering garden design trends grey water Coastal plants Ilex gravel autumn garden October garden Floating Paradise Gardens of London doddington hall NSALG repetition saving water GYO reclaimed materials watering can roof garden Buxus Crocus herbaceous borders September garden National Gardening Week May garden pond Achillea poppies form drought hydroponic Alys Fowler elm Shrubs Futurescape Malvern Spring Show Greenhouse June garden alpines blue December garden

Welcome to Blue Daisy Blog

Our Promise

promiseWe work hard to keep our customers happy.  We work to a voluntary customer charter.

Peace of Mind

simplybusinessWe take our responsibilities seriously so we're insured through Simply Business.

Click on the logo for our Garden Design insurance details. For Gardening details see our gardening services page.

Proud Members Of...

landscapejuicen... The Landscape Juice Network where we interact with other professional gardeners, designers and landscapers.