Sir Joseph Banks, botanist, explorer, President of the Royal Society and one of Australia's founding fathers, was among the most influential figures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As a young man he accompanied Captain Cook on his voyage of discovery to Australia, in later years he was instrumental in establishing Kew Gardens as the greatest botanical centre in the world and he knew just about everybody who mattered in the scientific circles of the time.
Patrick O'Brian's masterly biography draws on much hitherto unpublished material. Far from being the colossus of science traditionally imagined, Joseph Banks emerges here as a warm-hearted enthusiast whose legacy survives not only in the record of his botanizing in the South Seas but in the development of the Australian continent and in the tenor and tradition of subsequent scientific inquiry.
Patrick O'Brian was one of our greatest contemporary novelists. He is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He is the author of many other books including Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories. In 1995 he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime's contribution to literature. In the same year he was awarded the CBE. In 1997 he received an honorary doctorate of letters from Trinity College, Dublin. He lived for many years in South West France and he died in Dublin in January 2000.
"O'Brian has done the reading public a service by unwrapping so elegantly and wittily a great man previously known only to specialists and academics. The book is a crackerjack"
– Michael Fathers, Independent
"An absorbing finely-written overview [...] of a major figure in the history of natural science"
– Los Angeles Times
"Patrick O'Brian's leisurely and witty biography brings this 'genuine' Englishman fully to life [...] Banks epitomises the intrepid Englishman abroad [...] the prototype of the scientist dispassionately investigating all that befell him"
– London Magazine
"O'Brian reveals not only a well-researched understanding of his subject, but also an unabashed liking for him [...] Certainly any reader of this excellent book will close its final pages with a similar affection for Banks"
– Michael Dirda, Smithsonian