Joseph Banks: A Life

Joseph Banks: A Life

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by Patrick O'Brian
     
 

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One of our greatest writers about the sea has written an engrossing story of one of history's most legendary maritime explorers. Patrick O'Brian's biography of naturalist, explorer and co-founder of Australia, Joseph Banks, is narrative history at its finest. Published to rave reviews, it reveals Banks to be a man of enduring importance, and establishes itself as a

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Overview

One of our greatest writers about the sea has written an engrossing story of one of history's most legendary maritime explorers. Patrick O'Brian's biography of naturalist, explorer and co-founder of Australia, Joseph Banks, is narrative history at its finest. Published to rave reviews, it reveals Banks to be a man of enduring importance, and establishes itself as a classic of exploration.

"It is in his description of that arduous three-year voyage [on the ship Endeavor] that Mr. O'Brian is at his most brilliant. . . . He makes us understand what life within this wooden world was like, with its 94 male souls, two dogs, a cat and a goat."—Linda Colley, New York Times

"An absorbing, finely written overview, meant for the general reader, of a major figure in the history of natural science."—Frank Stewart, Los Angeles Times

"[This book is] the definitive biography of an extraordinary subject."—Robert Taylor, Boston Globe

"His skill at narrative and his extensive knowledge of the maritime history . . . give him a definite leg up in telling this . . . story."—Tom Clark, San Francisco Chronicle

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this bustling and arty portrait, English biographer O'Brian, author of the Aubrey-Maturin historical seafaring series, depicts naturalist and explorer Joseph Banks (1743-1820) as a man of unflagging energy and intellectual curiosity. Banks explored Newfoundland and Iceland, developed Kew Gardens into a major botanical center, presided over the Royal Society, accompanied Capt. James Cook on his first voyage around the world and spurred the colonization of Australia as a penal colony. He also concocted the scheme to transplant breadfruit from the South Seas to Jamaica on Captain William Bligh's Bounty , a plan that resulted in the famous mutiny. Amiable, kind and unprejudiced toward the Polynesians he encountered on his travels, Banks is described as ``in some ways a curiously impersonal man'' whose inner self remains hidden even in his seafaring journals, excerpts from which appear in this elegant biography cum spirited adventure. Illustrated. Reader's Subscription Book Club and Garden Book Club alternates. (Feb.)
Library Journal
O'Brian, creator of the popular fiction series depicting the British navy during the Napoleonic Wars, demonstrates his considerable research talents with this biography. Banks (1743-1820), who served for over 40 years as president of the Royal Society, Britain's oldest scientific institution, was the quintessential Englishman of this period. As a young botanist, Banks accompanied Captain Cook on a global voyage that culminated in the ``discovery'' of Australia. Later Banks helped to establish London's Kew Gardens as the world's greatest botanical center. A man of unusual energy and influence, he was instrumental in promoting the careers of other notable men. His considerable correspondence and journals have allowed O'Brian to write a solid biography that is rich in scholarship and engaging in style. Recommended for public libraries.-- Laurie Bartolini, Lin coln Lib., Springfield, Ill.
Booknews
A biography of Joseph Banks (1743-1820), naturalist, explorer (as a young botanist, he accompanied Captain Cook on the expedition that resulted in the discovery of Australia), and president for more than 40 years of the Royal Society, Britain's oldest scientific institution. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A finely wrought and fascinating biography from O'Brian, acclaimed author of historical naval adventures (The Truelove, 1992, etc.), who now turns his considerable storytelling talents to the life of Joseph Banks (1743-1820)—explorer, botanist, natural philosopher. Banks is a biographer's dream subject: He wrote letters by the peck and drove, left thousands of journal pages, and led an eventful, public life. As a young man, he served as expedition botanist on Captain James Cook's first circumnavigation of the globe (thus claiming his fame), then went on to develop the royal gardens at Kew into a world-class botanical collection; to produce the colossal collection of botanical treasures from the Cook's Endeavour voyage; to make vibrant the moribund Royal Society during his long presidency; to spur the colonization of Australia; and to spend years as privy councillor and close friend to George III. Banks even concocted the breadfruit transplant scheme that brought mutiny to the Bounty and Captain Bligh to the silver screen. O'Brian has a gift for taking a swarm of potentially suffocating details and spinning a compelling story, full of marvelous understatements ("He showed remarkable courage when faced with angry cannibals"; "The inhabitants behaved in a somewhat murderous fashion"), complete with delightful minutiae from the byways and backwaters of Banks's life. Here, O'Brian really shines as a writer, pure and simple, wielding his graceful and stylish prose with great dexterity. Fortunately, he is not so in love with his own voice that he doesn't let Banks speak for himself. Long passages directly from the naturalist's journals are wisely included; their raw, abbreviatedquality lends a keen immediacy to the narrative. An impressive achievement, destined to swell the ranks of O'Brian's already sizable readership. (Eight pages of halftones.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226616285
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
12/28/1997
Edition description:
1
Pages:
330
Sales rank:
566,708
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

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Joseph Banks 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago