Scientist of the Day - Sydney Parkinson
Sydney Parkinson, an English artist, died of dysentery on Jan. 26, 1771. He was only 26 years old. Parkinson was the principal botanical artist on board HMS Endeavour on Captain Cook's first voyage around the world, 1768-71. Parkinson had been hired by Joseph Banks, the wealthy naturalist who underwrote much of the cost of the voyage, and Banks kept Parkinson extremely busy, drawing the plants that Banks and his colleagues collected by the hundreds. After Parkinson died, his plant sketches were used as the basis for 768 botanical engravings known as the Banks Florilegium, the plates for which were not printed until 1980-90. We have a complete set in 34 clamshell boxes in our History of Science Collection.
Parkinson also sketched animals, natives, and landscapes while in Australia and New Guinea, and several of his drawings were the basis for engravings published in the Narrative of Cook’s first expedition, which we also have in our collection; you can see the breadfruit tree and the Maori warrior above. The two colored prints of a waxwing and a Gopliath beetle are from the collection of the National Library of Australia. Parkinson’s portrait is in the Natural History Museum, London.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City