Born on this day in 1743, this British son of a wealthy land owner, had the means to fulfill his childhood interest in the outdoors, science and the study of plants. He was unlike the other rich kids of his day, who would be satisfied to live the life of excess and rely on the benefits bestowed on them by their fathers.
Joseph Banks wasn’t like that. He had a great hunger for learning. He loved the creatures of nature and as a child, delighted in rubbing a toad across his face to prove that the old myth about getting warts from these innocent little creatures was nothing but false.
His father died when Joseph was only 18 years old, leaving him with a great fortune. However he never gave way to extravagance or frivolous living. He continued his studies and earned a reputation as a noted botanist. His first expedition led him to Labrador and Newfoundland, where he collected specimens of 340 plants. During that time, he was elected as a fellow to the Royal Society – a gentleman’s club which required good social standing as well as an interest in the sciences.
His next scientific expedition took him to the South Pacific, with Lieutenant, James Cook – a career member of the Royal Navy. These two men came from totally different backgrounds – Cook working his way up in society through the ranks, while Banks had no concern about money. During that trip, Joseph continued his pursuit of studying all kinds of plant life along with various animals and birds encountered along the way.
In 1781 he was made a baronet as well as becoming president of the Royal Society and advisor to King George III on the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. Banks sent many botanists out to retrieve unusual specimens to be placed in the garden, making it the pre-eminent botanical garden in the world.
He was a man of means and yet he used his wealth for the betterment of mankind. In his life of exploration, he visited Australia and made it a goal to colonize the island. He used much of his own money to restore the Endeavor and cover the costs of supplies and food for that voyage.
Happy birthday, Joseph Banks. Dilly – Dilly!