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Congratulations to Jordan Goodman, winner of the SHNH Natural History Book Prize (Thackray Medal) for ‘Planting the World: Joseph Banks and his Collectors’

Congratulations to Jordan Goodman, winner of the SHNH Natural History Book Prize (Thackray Medal) for ‘Planting the World: Joseph Banks and his Collectors’

The Society for the History of Natural History is very pleased to announce that our prestigious Book Prize (the John Thackray Medal) will this year be awarded to Dr Jordan Goodman for his Planting the World: Joseph Banks and his Collectors: An Adventurous History of Botany (Harper Collins, 2021, ISBN 978-0-00-757883-2).

Dr Goodman is Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London.

It was a bumper year for nominations and no fewer than eight books were put up for the award. The Awards Panel unanimously agreed however, that Planting the World was the clear winner.

Joseph Banks, detail of a painting by William Parry, 1775

The work tells the story of how Sir Joseph Banks sent collectors and gardeners overseas to find and acquire plants new to Europe. They could then be studied and grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It is a very thoroughly researched and referenced work, full of detail which, according to one judge, ‘sparkles with the untold stories of many unknown collectors’.  This was echoed by another judge who said ‘I enjoyed the fact that the book was pulling together the stories of so many different botanists and gardeners’.

This detail, as all the judges agreed, means that as well as being an impressive and satisfying monograph, the book is very useful as a reference work. One judge said they had ‘looked up a couple of things in it already!’

All in all, Planting the World: Joseph Banks and his Collectors: An Adventurous History of Botany is a very impressive book and we are very happy to award our Society for the History of Natural History Book Prize (Thackray Medal), and our congratulations, to Dr Jordan Goodman.

In speaking of the award, Dr Goodman said: ‘I am delighted to be the recipient of the John Thackray medal for the Best Book Prize of 2021 and humbled to join a long list of previous and distinguished winners. Natural history is more important now than it has ever been and the Society needs to be commended for keeping it firmly in the public eye with this award and its many other activities’.

For those interested in reading more about Planting the World you can access a recent review by Professor Arthur Lucas in the Society’s Journal, Archives of Natural History (

The award was instituted in 2000 to commemorate the life and work of John Thackray (1948–1999), Past President of SHNH, an outstanding scholar of the history of science with an enviable knowledge of natural history. He served as an Officer of the Society for the History of Natural History for 24 years (1973–1997) and in 1999 became the Society’s President. He authored 30 books and articles including Guide to the Official Archives of the Natural History Museum (1998).






‘Goodman turns his attention to the “adventurous history” of the botanists, naturalists, gardeners, and ship captains who carried out his vicarious plant-hunting across the world, shining a light on individuals whose achievements are relatively uncelebrated. The book is particularly strong on the minutiae of planning, negotiating, and financing these ventures, and on the disasters that so often beset them … For each expedition, Goodman builds up a picture based on meticulous research in original sources … Goodman illustrates vividly how adept [Banks] was, all through his career, at piggybacking on different government, diplomatic, and mercantile ventures … Planting the World tracks Banks’s projects in detail and illustrates dramatically how difficult it was to move plants around the world’
Jenny Uglow, New York Review of Books

‘A brilliant and authoritative insight into the global reach of Joseph Banks, one of the great figures of the Enlightenment, through the lives of the intrepid botanists, gardeners, and nurserymen whose explorations and adventures made it all possible’
Peter Crane

‘The story of 18th century European botanists, their ships and voyages, united by the mind and extraordinary energy of Joseph Banks as he developed both the science and gardens of England. It is a marvellous history packed with naval explorations, plant collecting, and the role of individuals in making Britain a major centre for global botany’
Janet Browne


‘Alyogyne hakeifolia’ by Ferdinand Bauer, based on his drawing of material collected as ‘Hibiscus filiformis’ from Goose Island Bay, Western Australia, in May 1803

A bold new history of how botany and global plant collecting – centred at Kew Gardens and driven by Joseph Banks – transformed the earth.

Botany was the darling and the powerhouse of the eighteenth century. As European ships ventured across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, discovery bloomed. Bounties of new plants were brought back, and their arrival meant much more than improved flowerbeds – it offered a new scientific frontier that would transform Europe’s industry, medicine, eating and drinking habits, and even fashion.

Joseph Banks was the dynamo for this momentous change. As botanist for James Cook’s great voyage to the South Pacific on the Endeavour, Banks collected plants on a vast scale, armed with the vision – as a child of the Enlightenment – that to travel physically was to advance intellectually. His thinking was as intrepid as Cook’s seafaring: he commissioned radically influential and physically daring expeditions such as those of Francis Masson to the Cape Colony, George Staunton to China, George Caley to Australia, William Bligh to Tahiti and Jamaica, among many others.

Jordan Goodman’s epic history follows these high seas adventurers and their influence in Europe, as well as taking us back to the early years of Kew Gardens, which Banks developed devotedly across the course of his life, transforming it into one of the world’s largest and most diverse botanical gardens.

In a rip-roaring global expedition, based on original sources in many languages, Goodman gives a momentous history of how the discoveries made by Banks and his collectors advanced scientific understanding around the world.



  • Format:Paperback / softback from £10.99
  • Pages:560 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:08/07/2021
  • ISBN:9780007578863

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