Botany was the darling and the powerhouse of the eighteenth century. As European ships ventured across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, discovery bloomed. Bounties of new plants were brought back, and their arrival meant much more than improved flowerbeds – it offered a new scientific frontier that would transform Europe's industry, medicine, eating and drinking habits, and even fashion.
Joseph Banks was the dynamo for this momentous change. As botanist for James Cook's great voyage to the South Pacific on the Endeavour, Banks collected plants on a vast scale, armed with the vision – as a child of the Enlightenment – that to travel physically was to advance intellectually. His thinking was as intrepid as Cook's seafaring: he commissioned radically influential and physically daring expeditions such as those of Francis Masson to the Cape Colony, George Staunton to China, George Caley to Australia, William Bligh to Tahiti and Jamaica, among many others.
Jordan Goodman's epic history follows these high seas adventurers and their influence in Europe, as well as taking us back to the early years of Kew Gardens, which Banks developed devotedly across the course of his life, transforming it into one of the world's largest and most diverse botanical gardens.
In a rip-roaring global expedition, based on original sources in many languages, Goodman gives a momentous history of how the discoveries made by Banks and his collectors advanced scientific understanding around the world.
Jordan Goodman is Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. He is the author of The Rattlesnake: A Voyage of Discovery to the Coral Sea, The Devil and Mr Casement and Paul Robeson: A Watched Man. He has published extensively on the history of medicine and science, and cultural and economic history.
"A brilliant and authoritative insight into the global reach of Joseph Banks, one of the great figures of the Enlightenment, through the lives of the intrepid botanists, gardeners, and nurserymen whose explorations and adventures made it all possible"
– Peter Crane
"The story of 18th century European botanists, their ships and voyages, united by the mind and extraordinary energy of Joseph Banks as he developed both the science and gardens of England. It is a marvellous history packed with naval explorations, plant collecting, and the role of individuals in making Britain a major centre for global botany"
– Janet Browne