Click here to skip to main content.
 
Ref No JBK
Collection Title Sir Joseph Banks Papers
Title Sir Joseph Banks Papers
Description Collection consists of correspondence written both to and from Banks, along with a calendar of correspondence (1764-1975); journals which Banks wrote during his voyage on the 'Endeavour' to New Zealand and the South seas and when travelling to Newfoundland (including facsimile copies published in 1980); a volume relating to disease in corn and a facsimile of Banks' will.
Creator Name Banks, Sir Joseph (1743-1820)
Date 1764-1975
Level Collection
Extent 3 series, 21 files; 0.76m
Administrative History Born in London on 13 February 1743, the only son of a wealthy land-owning family, Joseph Banks received his earliest education at home under private tuition. At age nine he attended Harrow School and was then enrolled at Eton School which he attended from the age of 13 until 18. In 1760 he entered Christ Church at Oxford University as a gentlemen commoner. His passion for botany and dedication to Linnean precepts had developed to such an extent that, unable to study botany at Oxford, Banks employed a private tutor, Isaac Lyons, from Cambridge. As was usual for members of his social class, Banks did not take out a degree. He came down from Oxford in 1763 an independently wealthy man following the death of his father in 1761.
As an independent naturalist, Banks participated in a voyage to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1767. Although he did not publish an account of this expedition, he allowed others full use of his collection. In the same year he was elected a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Society of Antiquities. In 1778 he was elected President of the Royal Society, a position he held with varying degrees of support, until his death in 1820. He remains the longest serving President in the history of the Royal Society, founded almost 350 years ago. He successfully lobbied the Royal Society to be included on what was to be James Cook's first great voyage of discovery, on board the Endeavour (1768-1771). This voyage marked the beginning of Banks' lifelong friendship and collaboration with the Swedish naturalist Daniel Solander, one of Linnaeus' most esteemed pupils, and the beginning of Banks' lifelong advocacy of British settlement in New South Wales. The Endeavour had sailed into Botany Bay in April 1770 and proceeded up the east coast and through Torres Strait, charting the east coast of Australia in the process.

Frustrated in his attempt at a second voyage to the South Seas, again with Cook, Banks set off in July 1772 for Iceland, his only other venture outside Europe. From this time, Banks was actively involved in almost every aspect of Pacific exploration and early Australian colonial life. He was interested and involved in Cook's later voyages and actively supported the proposal of Botany Bay as a site for British settlement. He proposed William Bligh to command two voyages for the transportation of breadfruit and other plants, including the ill-fated voyage on the Bounty which ended in mutiny in April 1789. Practically anyone who wanted to travel to New South Wales, in almost any capacity, consulted Sir Joseph Banks and he remained the one constant figure throughout the first 30 years of white settlement in Australia, through changes of ministers, government and policy.
King George III had appointed Banks as adviser to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew some time after his return from the Pacific. His informal role as governmental adviser on a range of issues was recognised in 1797 with his appointment to the Privy Council. He served as a member of the committees on trade and on coin. In his capacity as President of the Royal Society he was also involved in the activities of the Board of Longitude and the Greenwich Royal Observatory, the Board of Agriculture (founded in 1793) and the African Association (founded in 1788). He was also a Trustee of the British Museum.

In addition to the Banks family estates in Lincolnshire, Banks acquired his main London residence at 32 Soho Square in 1776. It was established as his London home and scientific base. His natural history collections were housed there and made freely available to bona fide scientists and researchers. Until his death, this house was a centre for the wider scientific community. He did not discriminate between British and foreign scientists. He was, in fact, influential in maintaining scientific relations with France, for example, during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. In 1819 he was appointed Chairman to two committees established by the House of Commons, one to enquire into prevention of banknote forgery, the other to consider systems of weights and measures.

Banks was created a baronet in 1781 and invested Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1795. In March 1779, he had married Dorothea Hugessen (1758-1828), daughter and heiress of William Western Hugessen. They had no children. Sir Joseph Banks died on 19 June 1820.
Custodial History The provenance of the collection is unknown with the exception of the Banks' Journals (JBK/2/1 - JBK/2/3) which were presented to RBG Kew by Reginald N. Hooker in 1905 and the catalogue of the Banks manuscripts in the Knatchbull manuscripts (JBK/1/12) which was presented to RBG Kew by Kent Archives Office in 1970. JBK/1/9/7, which is believed to be a letter to Banks was purchased by RBG Kew at the Philips auction on 18th March 1993.
Series JBK/1 - Correspondence, JBK/2 - Journals, JBK/3- Other Papers
Related Material Material relating to Banks can also be found in Director's Correspondence vols 1 and 2 (available on microfilm), in A.B. Lambert collection (f.6), John Lindley collection (f.41), Forsyth correspondence (f.87), Miscellaneous correspondence (letter from James Bruce), in the Kew Record Book 1793-1809 (ff.234-5), and Kew Collectors collection - KCL/1/2 (ff.279-284), KCL/5/1 (ff.3-6), KCL/7/1 (ff.55-57) and KCL/8/5. Books relating to Banks can also be found within the library collections, as can microfilm copies of Banks' papers held at the British Library entitled 'The history of Science and Technology series two: the papers of Sir Joseph Banks, 1743-1820' and a catalogue for this microfilm gives details of its contents.
Powered by CalmView© 2008-2010