Banks, Joseph (1743-1820) was a wealthy British botanist who gained much recognition for his involvement in the discovery and development of Australia. He also acted as patron to many young botanists of his time. Through his friendship with King George III, he served as honorary director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, outside London, and under his influence, Kew became a great storehouse of living plants from all over the world.
Banks was born in London, and entered Oxford University in 1760. Because Oxford lacked a botany curriculum, Banks employed his own tutor in the subject.
After his father died in 1761, Banks inherited a large fortune. Two years later, he made his first expedition as a naturalist to Labrador and Newfoundland. In 1768, he managed again to secure the position of naturalist, this time on an expedition sailing to the Southern Hemisphere in search of a large land mass. The HMS Endeavor, with James Cook as captain, stopped in Tahiti, explored the coastlines of New Zealand and Australia and returned to England with a massive load of botanical specimens, including more than 800 previously unknown species. The bay in which Banks had gathered these specimens was dubbed Botany Bay.
Banks's last expedition was to Iceland in 1772, where he studied geysers. From then on, he used his influence and wealth to support talented young botanists and to indirectly oversee the development of Australia as a British colony. His London home was also the gathering place for an ongoing stream of eminent international scientists. Banks became a fellow of the Royal Society of England in 1766 and became its president in 1778. He held that post until his death on June 19, 1820, in Isleworth, near London. He was made a baronet in 1781.