Robert Knox was an English sea captain in the service of the British East India Company. He was born to another sea captain, also called Robert Knox, on the 8th of February in 1641 and he died on the 19th of June in 1720.
He joined his father’s crew on the ship Anne for his first voyage to India in 1655, at the age of 14, before returning to England in 1657. That year, Oliver Cromwell issued a charter granting the East India Company a monopoly of the Eastern trade, requiring the elder Knox and his crew to join the service of the Company.
The two Knoxes sailed for Persia in January 1658. They suffered the loss of the ship’s mast in a storm on 19 November 1659, forcing them to put ashore on Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. The ship was impounded and sixteen of the crew, including the Knoxes, were taken captive by the troops of the Kandyan king, Rajasinghe II, or Kirti Sri Rajasinha, King of Kandy. Rajasinha means the King of Lions (or the Lion King).
There can be little doubt that Mr Knox came to know the potent strain of Hemp grown in Ceylon during his time there.
. Robert Knox Jr. eventually escaped with one companion, Stephen Rutland, after nineteen years of captivity. The two men were able to reach Arippu, a Dutch fort on the north-west coast of the island. The Dutch treated Knox generously and transported him to Batavia (now Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies, from where he was able to return home on an English vessel, the Caesar. He arrived back in London in September 1680.
During the voyage Knox wrote the manuscript of An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, an account of his experiences on Ceylon, which was published in 1681. The book was accompanied by engravings showing the inhabitants, their customs and agricultural techniques. It attracted widespread interest at the time and made Knox internationally famous, influencing Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as well as sparking a friendship with Robert Hooke of the Royal Society. It is one of the earliest and most detailed European accounts of life on Ceylon and is today seen as an invaluable record of the island in the 17th century.
Knox became a close friend and collaborator of Robert Hooke, for whom he frequently brought back gifts from his travels. In return, Hooke took Knox to the local coffeehouses for chocolate and tobacco, then considered luxuries. On one occasion, Knox presented Hooke with samples of “a strange intoxicating herb like hemp” which he dubbed “Indian hemp” or “Bangue”; it is better known today as cannabis indica, a plant which was unknown at the time in Europe. Hooke gave an address to the Society in December 1689 in which he provided what was the first detailed description of cannabis in English, commending its possible curative properties and noting that Knox “has so often experimented it himself, that there is no Cause of Fear, tho’ possibly there may be of Laughter.”
Robert Hooke had more than a few small successes in his life. Inventing the watch spring and escape mechanism, Hooke discovered the law of elasticity which bears his name, Hooke argued for an attracting principle of gravitation in Micrographia of 1665. Hooke’s 1666 Royal Society lecture “On gravity” added two further principles – that all bodies move in straight lines till deflected by some force and that the attractive force is stronger for closer bodies. Hooke coined the term cell for describing biological organisms, Hooke in a 1682 lecture to the Royal Society proposed mechanistic model of human memory which would bear little resemblance to the mainly philosophical models before it.This model would address the components of encoding, memory capacity, repetition, retrieval, and forgetting—some with surprising modern accuracy. This work, overlooked for nearly 200 years would share a variety of similarities with Richard Semon’s work of 1919/1923, both assuming memories were physical and located in the brain.