The Banks Endeavour – Homage To Science’s Great Panjandrum

Sir Joseph Banks painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1773 following his return from his trip to Australia and after he had gained immediate fame

Red Dog Film in England is a not-for-profit community interest company with a big reputation seeking to make a film to tell the little known but terrific tale of a local lad who made good.

The story of Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820) is a defining story in both Australia and England.

He was a Lincolnshire man who in his lifetime transformed our understanding of the natural world.

The Banks Endeavour is a landmark campaign established to fund raise for the necessary resources and the Sir Joseph Banks Society, the Lincolnshire Community Foundation, and The National Lottery have all contributed.

The people involved with The Banks Endeavour believe it is important that many people who are interested in the development of botanical science and natural history have an opportunity to support the project.

Crowdfunding means contributing a donation you can afford via the Internet.

Needless to say dependent on your contribution you can enjoy considerable ‘perks’, including being an ‘extra in the film’.

This undoubtedly will have a great deal of appeal.

James Cook, Joseph Banks, Lord Sandwich, Dr Daniel Solander and Dr John Hawkesworth by John Hamilton Mortimer courtesy National Library of Australia. It is the earliest portrait of Cook yet discovered

A leading light during the Age of Enlightenment, Sir Joseph Banks is barely known in England today. His existence and achievements may also be news to many, especially that he is considered historically as the ‘Father of Australia.

He was given that title because of his continuing keen interest in the colony throughout his life. Due to the interest of Sir Joseph Banks in the colony the unusually interesting character of Australian plants soon became known in England.

He was active in every area of involvement in early Australian colonial life and everyone coming here always consulted him as an ‘oracle’ of wisdom. He sent botanists to all parts of the world, including New South Wales and mostly at his own expense. His informal role as governmental adviser on a range of issues was recognised in 1797 with his appointment to the Privy Council.

Banks came to Australia with James Cook (1728-1779), the eighteenth century English explorer, navigator, cartographer and naval lieutenant who became a Captain and dutifully did as he was told, subsequently dying on the job.

Sir David Attenborough speaking on behalf of The Banks Endeavour

The suburb of Bankstown was named for Banks and Captain Cook named the north headland of Botany Bay for him – Cape Banks.

There is also a monument to his memory at Kurnell, which was the first landing place of an Englishman on Australian soil.

The Banks Endeavour project has a powerful supporter in the person of living legend Sir David Attenborough a man we all admire. He has lent his considerable talents to spreading the word.

He is helping to raise the profile of the project so that the additional funds needed to ensure that it goes ahead will be raised.

This creative crowdfundraising action is an important growing aspect of community life to be admired.

A community that maintains a vested interest in the expansion of knowledge and retention of creativity and culture as mainstream elements of its social and economic life, will importantly both value and conserve its democratic freedoms.

There would hardly be a person around who wouldn’t want to sit and learn at the feet of today’s great guru of knowledge about nature Sir David Attenborough.

He is one of the most respected of all broadcasters and naturalists, his career as the face and voice of natural history programs has endured for the last 60 years.

I would have to say that he has certainly enriched my family’s life and we are all big fans.

I love that he introduced me to the term ‘great panjandrum’ … a pseudo-Latin word originally coined in 1754 by English dramatist and actor Samuel Foote (1720–77).

He was satirizing a newly opened school of oratory and talking about the founders as being self-important.

Sir Joseph Banks was indeed important, most probably just a little pretentious too although he was also so much more.

Joseph Banks painted by Benjamin West 1773 courtesy Usher Gallery Lincolnshire

According to Red Dog Film spokesman Phillip Stevens he is one of the most important scientific figures in the history of the British Isles one of the most influential men throughout the age of Enlightenment.

Banks was a writer and investigator who deservedly won through his own efforts, a high place in the annals of science.

When Lieutenant Cook was given command of the Endeavour Bark and sailed from Plymouth on 26th August 1768 to go on an expedition to the South Seas to observe the transit of Venus Joseph Banks and his retinue sailed with him.

Banks had studied Botany at Oxford University although he left before he attained a degree, a common occurrence at the time.

His family had always maintained their interest in the land and his ancestors had gained their wealth draining marsh in the fens, ensuring it became profitable as agricultural land

Members of his family were well connected in the upper echelons of society and he used his connections wisely so that he could follow his own interests in Botany, which he did not discover until in his teens.

It is said to have happened when he reflected on nature and flowers nearby while river bathing with friends.

By age 17 his love of natural history and botany in particular was marked and noted by contemporaries.

While not being admired as an ‘academic, he was viewed as an ‘ambitious young botanist’, who became liked and esteemed wherever he went, especially when elected as a fellow of the Royal Society at the youthful age of 27, which was unusual at the time.

As his fame gradually grew his home became a ‘centre for scientists and the exchange of ideas.

When The Royal Society was asked to recommend who would travel with Cook on his expedition to the Southern ocean they chose and recommended Joseph Banks.

We know a lot about Banks journey ‘down under’ because his handwritten journal, which was kept almost daily by the then 25-year-old on board HMS Endeavour.

James Cook, portrait by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, c. 1775, courtesy National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

It is one of Sydney’s Mitchell Library, part of the State Library of NSW most significant manuscripts and treasures.

It records the first Pacific voyage of James Cook from 1768 to 1771, including his account from April 1770 detailing the arrival of the Endeavour in Botany Bay, as well as detailed descriptions of the people living in the area and the myriad of both plant and animal life.

He travelled with a staff of eight, which he would have funded himself.

His mission was to bring ‘back things from the earth and the sea’ and this was achieved at a personal cost of some ten thousand pounds.

He actively supported the proposal of Botany Bay as a site for British settlement and was also instrumental in Matthew Flinders’ voyage on the Investigator (1801 – 1803), which helped define the map of Australia.

Sir Joseph Banks introduced rigorous science into Kew Gardens, making it the leading institution and giving it international recognition, one that it still enjoys today.

Banks would be responsible for developing connections between the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, which he was the unofficial director of  during the late 18th century and Australia, links it still retains to this day.

The current Executive Director Professor Timothy Entwisle, who became the 13th head of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Melbourne in March 2013, was the Director of Conservation, Living Collections and Estates at Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew Gardens from 2011 – 2013.

Bank’s Florliegium, a collection of copperplate engravings of plants Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander collected in Australia is in the British Museum.

Sir Joseph Banks c 1808-9 by Thomas Phillips 1770 - 1845 courtesy State Library of New South Wales DG25

The idea for the film is to present a dramatic representation of Joseph Banks and his life and legacy as a 40-minute drama.

The script has been conceived around an older Sir Joseph Banks talking with a young botanist about his life and adventures.

It would be bookended with leading figures talking animatedly about Banks and his legacy and what it means in our world today.

It is planned that some filming will take place in Australia aboard the replica of Cook’s Endeavour, which is usually moored at The Australian Maritime Museum wharves, Darling Harbour, Sydney.

The story produced by Red Dog Film will also include Bank’s landmark expedition to Newfoundland, of his time at Kew Gardens and, as an active Fellow (Member) of the Royal Society.

If we are to continue prosper surely it will happen best if our economy continues to be driven by innovation and invention, important and influential products of creativity.

You are invited to participate in, and contribute to The Banks Endeavour.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014

The Banks Endeavour

Bringing Sir Joseph Banks to Life in Film

‘Banks was the great panjandrum of science, in the 18th century he was the leading scientist in the country and more should be known about him.’ Sir David Attenborough, The Collection, Lincoln. February 2014

Red Dog Film, a Lincolnshire based media non-profit collective, is planning to make an authentic period drama and documentary about a forgotten hero, Sir Joseph Banks and we are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to raise the necessary resources. When fundraising, people have historically gone to wealthy organisations and individuals but during a crowdfunding campaign, the approach is to the public through the Internet asking many people to donate a small amount.








Watch A Free Video by David Attenborough: Sir Joseph Banks – Endeavour





Ref: Australian Dictionary of Biography | State Library of NSW | Papers of Sir Joseph Banks

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