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Blog post from Friday, 13 February, 2015

On this day, 13th February 1743, Sir Joseph Banks, the British botanist and naturalist on James Cook’s voyage to Australia, was born.

Joseph Banks was born in London, England. He developed his passion for botany whilst studying at Oxford University. After establishing his name through scientific publication, he was appointed to a joint Royal Navy/Royal Society scientific expedition to the south Pacific Ocean on HMS Endeavour, from 1768 to 1771.

The expedition went to Tahiti (where the transit of Venus was observed), New Zealand, and finally to the east coast of Australia. Cook mapped the coastline and made landfall at Botany Bay, Sydney and at Cooktown in Queensland, while their ship was repaired after foundering on the Great Barrier Reef.

While in Australia, Banks, and the Swedish and Finnish botanists Daniel Solander and Dr Herman Spöring made the first major collection of Australian flora, describing many species new to science.

Banks’s legacy lives on through the 75 species which bear his name. He is credited with the classification and description of eucalyptus, acacia, mimosa, and the genus named after him, Banksia. The Canberra suburb of Banks and the Sydney suburb of Bankstown are also named after him.

Joseph Banks died in London at the age of 77.

The State Library of New South Wales holds the Joseph Banks Endeavour Journal. See Discover Collections for more information on this highly significant manuscript.