David Livingstone, 1813–1873


Biographical note

Missionary explorer, born at Blantyre, Lanarkshire, spent the years between 10 and 24 as an operative in a cotton mill there. Becoming interested in foreign missions he qualified himself, and entering the service of the London Missionary Society, set out in 1846 to South Africa. He subsequently made journeys into the interior, which ultimately developed into his great pioneering and exploration expeditions, in which he discovered Lake Ngami 1849, and the river Zambesi 1851. In 1856 he visited England, published his Missionary Travels [1857], and retired from the service of the London Missionary Society. He was Consul at Quilimane 1858–64, and in 1858 commanded an expedition for exploring Eastern and Central Africa, in the course of which he discovered Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa 1859. Again visiting England he published his second book, The Zambesi and its Tributaries [1865]. Returning to Africa he organised an expedition to the Nile basin, discovered Lake Bangweolo, explored the cannibal country, enduring terrible sufferings and dangers, from which he was rescued just in time by H.M. Stanley. His last journey was to discover the sources of the Nile, but it proved fatal, as he died at a village in Ilala. His remains were brought home and buried in Westminster Abbey. Livingstone was a man of indomitable courage, and of a simple nobility of character. His writings are plain, unadorned statements of his work and experiences. He ranks among the greatest explorers and philanthropists. The diary which he kept was published as Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa [1874]. His view of his duty in the circumstances in which he found himself was to be a pioneer opening up new ground, and leaving native agents to work it up.

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

© 2014 The University of Adelaide
CRICOS Provider Number 00123M