Lincolnshire botanist Sir Joseph Banks has inspired three events at September’s Gravity Fields festival – including the sex life of flowers and how they unlocked the secret of atoms.
Banks’ scientific genius, his major role in establishing Kew Gardens and his voyages around the world, including joining Captain Cook on HMS Endeavour, have prompted special sessions in the 19th century surroundings of Harlaxton Manor.
Banks and Isaac Newton, in whose honour the festival is run, were both presidents of The Royal Society with Banks appointed in 1778 some 51 years after Newton’s death.
The final day of Gravity Fields (September 21-25) sees Richard Barley, Kew’s Director of Horticulture, Learning and Operations, paying tribute to Banks’ role in establishing the world’s hub of botanical science in his talk ‘Joseph Banks’.
Richard has spent the last two years leading such projects as the restoration of Kew’s historic Temperate House, developing the Great Broad Walk Borders and the’ Kew On a Plate’ BBC project.
He then joins a panel discussion on ‘Joseph Banks’ Voyages’, including the exploration of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1766 and two years later as he joined Captain Cook’s first major voyage to the Pacific.
He will be joined by Professor Rob Iliffe, a world expert on Newton and award winning playwright Louise Page, who has already written one play about Joseph Banks and is researching his voyages to Iceland, Newfoundland and Australia (with Captain Cook).
The panel also includes David Robinson OBE, Life President of the Sir Joseph Banks Society and Dr Harry Cliff, festival co-curator and Cambridge physicist.
Dr Cliff then relates the seldom-told story of Robert Brown, Banks’ protégée, and his strange discovery. ‘The Flower and the Atom’ looks at Brown’s discovery, while trying to understand how plants have sex, that pollen particles dance around as if alive. It took the genius of Einstein to explain what was happening, and that Brown’s flower held the secret to the existence of atoms!
David Robinson said: “We are delighted that the festival is including the Joseph Banks story and I am looking forward to the panel discussion. I shall be asking what made him tick, where did his ideas come from and what made him decide to go with Cook when he could have stayed at home on his Lincolnshire estate with a silver spoon in his mouth.”
All events are £6 (£5 concession).
Noon: Joseph Banks – Richard Barley
1.30pm: Joseph Banks’ Voyages – A Panel Discussion
3pm: The Flower and The Atom – Dr Harry Cliff
Full festival details and to book online: visit www.gravityfields.co.uk or call the box office on 01476 406158.