Sir Joseph Banks, naturalist, explorer, collector, patron and President of the Royal Society for more than 40 years was one of Australia’s founding fathers, and among the most outstanding figures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He rose to lasting renown when, as a young botanist, he accompanied Captain Cook on his circumnavigation and voyage of discovery to The South Seas, and yet a true picture of Banks’s life has never emerged nor an appreciation of his enduring importance.
In this first ever television documentary of Banks’ life, journalist Ian Cross explores his influence over five decades during a critical period of great change in the world, from 1770 to 1820.In five half hour programmes, The Lost World of Joseph Banks, uncovers the relationships, achievements and controversies associated with this enigmatic figure.
Banks was instrumental in establishing Kew Gardens as the greatest botanical centre in the world, and he used his influence and friendship with King George the 3rd, and in society, to further the careers of many navigators, explorers and naturalists including William Bligh and Matthew Flinders.
Far from being merely the Colossus of Science traditionally imagined, Joseph Banks true genius lay in promoting the enthusiasms of others. His legacy survives not only in his collections, notably his magnificent Herbarium and Florilegium both housed in the Natural History Museum in London, the record of his botanizing in the South Seas, but in his pivotal role in the founding of Australia first as a convict settlement and its development as a British colony.
Episode 1 of the documentary, “A Great Endeavour” looks at Banks’ early privileged life as the son of a wealthy landowner who inherited vast estates, and his developing friendship with Swedish botanist, Daniel Solander, who would accompany him on his journey and adventures to the South Seas on board the Endeavour with Captain Cook.
Episode 2, “First Contact” follows the Endeavour as it encounters the native peoples of New Zealand and Australia for the first time.
Episode 3, “Empire’s Plant Hunter” follows Banks and his companions on their botanical journey of exploration of the eastern coast of Australia, the disastrous loss of life on board the Endeavour in the East Indies and Banks’ return to London in 1771, which made him a celebrity.
Episode 4, “Science and State”, looks at Banks’ the imperialist and globalist who fused the worlds of science and state, re distributed the world’s crops and transformed its landscapes including that of Australia.
Episode 5,” Legacy” examines Banks fragmented and sometimes forgotten legacy, and the mystery behind the final resting place of one of the great collectors, influencers and patrons of the Georgian age.