Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Pride, Prejudice and Persistence

Colonel William Paterson’s 1799 portrait. (Courtesy State Library of NSW, Call Number DG175)

Colonel William Paterson’s 1799 portrait. (Courtesy State Library of NSW, Call Number DG175)

By Paul Edwards

It took two decades for William Paterson to persuade his patron Sir Joseph Banks to recognise his achievements through membership of the Royal Society.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Lieutenant Colonel William Paterson, Lieutenant Governor of the colony of NSW and founder of the city of Launceston, was an enthusiastic amateur naturalist. He maintained a passion for natural history all his life. When his patron, the Countess of Strathmore (the fourth great grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II), withdrew financial support after her second marriage, he joined the army and gained the patronage of Sir Joseph Banks, “the father of Australia”. Banks’ long reluctance to support Paterson’s attempts to join the Royal Society can be explained by the mix of politics, personality and social class that characterised British science, at home and in the colonies, towards the end of the English Enlightenment.

The Rise of Joseph Banks

James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific, to observe the 1769 transit of Venus in Tahiti and then to search for the unknown southern continent Terra Australis Incognita, launched the career of Joseph Banks, then only 28 years old. Like Paterson at the same age, Banks was an enthusiastic and personable young amateur naturalist. However, unlike Paterson, he had inherited considerable wealth and property and had influential aristocratic, scientific and naval connections in London. These undoubtedly aided his election to the Royal Society at the age of 23 after his first expedition abroad to Newfoundland and Labrador. They also...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.