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1/3 Joseph Banks

Wednesday 21 September 2005 23:30-0:00 (Radio 4 FM)


It was a passion for exploring the natural world that led Joseph Banks to sea, rather than any particular love of seafaring. Boarding Captain Cook's ship Endeavour in 1768 with a team of colleagues and servants, and a bureau packed with gentlemanly accoutrements, his seafaring lifestyle contrasted sharply with that of the other crew members in their cramped accommodation.

The aim of the journey, for both Banks and Cook, was exploration - scientific and geographical. Cook went down in history as the first European discoverer of Australia, while Banks and his team collected, recorded and investigated the natural history of every region in which they set foot, including the celebrated Botany Bay in Australia.

The journey was at times perilous, but Banks managed to bring back to Britain a vast archive of exotic plants and animal material from around the world. On his return, he was the toast of Europe, enjoying the rewards of his exotic celebrity status to the full and returning to his aristocratic life with zest. But his aim from then on was to advance scientific knowledge, and to further the British Empire through his discoveries and he influenced greatly the practice of scientific exploration from then onwards.

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