Sir Joseph Banks was a man of passion whose influence spanned the globe. Fearless and adventurous he was enthralled with beautiful women. This was only trumped by his obsession with the natural world and his lust for scientific knowledge. Incredibly wealthy, Banks was the driving force behind large scale voyages and scientific discoveries in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and the Arctic.
In 1768, as an enchanting young playboy, he joined Captain James Cook's Endeavour expedition to the South Pacific. With his wealthy resources he funded his own team of scientists and artists. Banks pitted himself against high seas, hailstorms, treacherous coral reefs and hostile locals to expand the world's knowledge of life on distant shores. He returned with specimens, numbering in the thousands, of plants and animals generating enormous interest in Europe. While at the same time his racy accounts of amorous adventures in Tahiti made him one of the most famous and notorious men in England.
As the longest-serving president of Britain's Royal Society, Banks was perhaps the most important man in the scientific world of his generation. It was Banks who advised Britain to establish a remote penal settlement and strategic base at Botany Bay, and he eventually became the foremost expert on everything Australian. Early governors in the colony answered to him as he set about unleashing Australia's vast potential in agriculture and minerals. For decades, major British voyages of exploration around the globe only sailed with his backing.