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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

VIII. The Literature of Science

§ 35. Exploration: Sir Joseph Banks; Robert Brown

Great advance was also being made in our knowledge of the flora and fauna of the British dominions beyond the seas. Prominent among explorers was Sir Joseph Banks, who studied the flora of Newfoundland in 1766 and, later, accompanied by Solander and others, started with Cook on his memorable voyage round the world in the “Endeavour.” He returned to England in 1771 and, during the following year, visited Iceland. Banks’s very extensive explorations helped to make Kew the centre of botanical activity, an activity which soon became world-wide. It is worth recalling that his private secretary was the distinguished botanist Robert Brown, to whom he bequeathed his herbarium and library. Brown took part in the celebrated expedition of Flinders to Australia, which started in 1801, and added greatly to our knowledge of the fauna and flora of Australasia. Nor must it be forgotten that Brown was the first to observe the cell-nucleus. This, as one of his biographers remarks, was “a triumph of genius,” for Brown worked only with the simple microscope, and the technique of staining cells and tissues was then unknown. It is interesting to note that the nucleus was described and figured eight years before the surrounding protoplasm attracted attention. In fact, in the early part of the nineteenth century, repeated improvements in the microscope and in histological technique were demonstrating very clearly that all living organisms, whether plant or animal, consist either of a single cell or a complex of cells, and that they all began life as a single cellular unit.