As official botanist on James Cook's first circumnavigation, the longest-serving president of the Royal Society, advisor to King George III, the "father of Australia", and the man who established Kew as the world's leading botanical garden, Sir Joseph Banks was integral to the English Enlightenment. Yet he has not received the recognition that his multifarious achievements deserve.
In this engaging account, Toby Musgrave reveals the true extent of Banks's contributions to science and Britain. From an early age Banks pursued his passion for natural history through study and extensive travel, most famously on the HMS Endeavour. He went on to become a pivotal figure in the advancement of British scientific, economic, and colonial interests. With his enquiring, enterprising mind and extensive network of correspondents, Banks's reputation and influence were global. Drawing widely on Banks's writings, Musgrave sheds light on Banks's profound impact on British science and empire in an age of rapid advancement.
Dr. Toby Musgrave is a plants and gardens historian, independent scholar, and consultant. He is the author or coauthor of ten books, including The Plant Hunters, An Empire of Plants, The Head Gardeners, Paradise Gardens, Green Escapes and Heritage Fruits and Vegetables.
"Sir Joseph Banks was perhaps the greatest scientist of his age and this book is an inspiration to all as we start to re-examine our relationship with nature."
– Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE, author of The Great Explorers
"Combines depth of research with concise exposition of Banks's remarkable career."
– John Gascoigne, author of Joseph Banks and the English Enlightenment
"At long last – a book that shines new light on such a key figure in history! From botanical gardens to Botany Bay, Joseph Banks's brilliance radiates throughout this important and highly-readable new biography."
– Vanessa Collingridge, author of Captain Cook
"In the inimitable prose of garden historian Toby Musgrave, Banks is brought alive as a key figure in facilitating, among many other things, scientific – particularly botanical – endeavour, as part of the global positioning of Georgian England."
– David Mabberly, author of Botanical Revelation
"This well-researched and even-handed biography of Banks confirms his importance as a pioneering scientist, philanthropist and explorer."
– Graham Seal, author of The Savage Shore
"A superbly written biography of the longest sitting president of the Royal Society."
– Professor H. Walter Lack, Freie Universität Berlin
"Illuminating [...] Modern specialists dismiss [Banks] as a jack of all trades, but Musgrave's claim that he changed our world is not an exaggeration."
– John Carey, Sunday Times
"Multifarious he [Mr. Banks] was indeed, and Mr. Musgrave treats us to an extensive, admiring account of his subject's circuitous route to fame and power."
– Wall Street Journal
"Readers interested in the British Enlightenment, the history of science, or the lives of great figures who played leading roles in England's emergence as a global presence will enjoy this highly informative book."