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David Livingstone

David Livingstone

1813 - 1873

Livingstone was a curious combination of missionary, doctor, explorer, scientist and anti-slavery activist. He spent 30 years in Africa, exploring almost a third of the continent, from its southern tip almost to the equator. Livingstone received a gold medal from the London Royal Geographical for being the first to cross the entire African Continent from west to east. He was the first white man to see Victoria Falls and though he never discovered the source of the Nile, one of his goals, he eliminated some possibilities and thereby helped direct the efforts of others.

Although popular among native tribes in Africa, Livingstone made enemies of some white settlers there because he learned African languages and had an unusually keen understanding and sympathy for native people and cultures. In 1843, while settling the Mabotsa valley, Livingstone shot a lion. Before it died, however, the lion attacked Livingstone, costing him the use of his left arm.

In 1865, at age 52, Livingstone set out on his last and most famous journey. He soon lost his medicine, animals and porters, but struggled on almost alone.

At a village on the Lualaba River he witnessed the slaughter of villagers by slave traders. The letter he sent home describing the event so infuriated the public that the English government pressured the Sultan of Zanzibar to stop the slave trade. The pressure was only partially successful. The trans-Atlantic slave trade, organised by the Portuguese, had began around 1530. In 1562 Sir John Hawkins started the English slave trade, taking cargoes of slaves from West Africa to the newly discovered Americas. Find out more about the discovery of Africa by the Portuguese, and the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus.

On Nov. 10, 1871 in the village of Ujiji, on the east side of Lake Tanganyika, Livingstone encountered Henry Stanley. He greeted him with his (now famous) comically understated words: "Dr Livingstone, I presume?". Stanley had been sent by the New York Herald Tribune newspaper to help, but it had taken a year to find him.

With Stanley's supplies Livingstone continued his explorations, but he was weak, worn out and suffering from dysentery. Then, on the morning of April 30, 1872, his two African assistants found him dead, still kneeling at his bedside, apparently praying when he died. They dried his body and carried it and his papers on a dangerous 11-month journey to Zanzibar, a trip of 1,000 miles. The natives buried his heart in Africa as he had requested, but his body was returned to England and buried in Westminster Abbey.


MS Encarta Extract:
Dr. David Livingstone (1813-1873), Scottish doctor and missionary, considered one of the most important European explorers of Africa, also pioneering the abolition of the slave trade. Livingstone was born in Blantyre. After completing his medical course in 1840, Livingstone was ordained and sent as a medical missionary to South Africa. In 1841 he reached Kuruman, a settlement founded by Scottish missionary Robert Moffat in Bechuanaland (now Botswana). In 1849 Livingstone crossed the Kalahari Desert and became the first European to discover Lake Ngami. On another expedition (1852-1856), he followed the Zambezi River to its mouth in the Indian Ocean, thereby becoming the first European to discover Victoria Falls.

Livingstone's explorations resulted in a revision of all contemporary maps. He returned to Britain in 1856 and was welcomed as a great explorer. In 1866, after commanding a series of explorations, Livingstone led an expedition to discover the sources of the Nile River and explore the watershed of central Africa. Traveling along the Ruvuma River, Livingstone reached the shore of Lake Tanganyika in 1869.
Little was heard from Livingstone during this period, and his welfare became a matter of international concern. In 1870 Livingstone traveled from Ujiji, on Lake Tanganyika, to the Lualaba River, in present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire), becoming the first European to visit that location. Upon his return to Ujiji, Livingstone was met by a rescue party led by Henry Morton Stanley, who is said to have greeted the explorer with the famous remark, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Stanley and Livingstone explored the area north of Lake Tanganyika together. Later, Livingstone set out alone to continue his search for the sources of the Nile.


The Christian Missionary Perspective
Mrs. J.H. Worchester writes in her book, David Livingstone: First To Cross Africa With The Gospel, that "as a missionary explorer, [Livingstone] stood alone, traveling 29,000 miles in Africa, adding to the known portion of the globe about a million square miles, discovering lakes N'gami, Shirwa, Nyassa, Morero and Bangweolo, the upper Zambesi and many other rivers, and the wonderful Victoria Falls. He was also the first European to traverse the entire length of Lake Tanganyika, and to travel over the vast water-shed near Lake Bangweolo, and through no fault of his own, he only just missed the information that would have set at rest his conjectures as to the Nile's sources."

His attempts to abolish the slave trade, and to supplant it by introducing Christianity and "legitimate" commerce to Africa, remained a lifelong ambition, and he resolutely pursued this crusade until his death.

After hearing of his death, Florence Nightingale said: "God has taken away the greatest man of his generation...."

Livingstone was born on March 13, 1813, in Blantyre, Scotland, where he spent the first twenty-three years of his life. His parents, devout Christians, played an important role in his life by introducing him to the subject of missions.

As a young man, he worked in a local mill, but refused any thought of this becoming his destiny. By the time he turned twenty-one, Livingstone had accepted Christ and made up his mind to become a medical missionary.

He heard of Robert Moffat, a missionary to South Africa, tell of the work going on in Kuruman. Within eighteen months, he saved enough money to continue his education. After completing medical school, he accepted a position with the London Missionary Society in South Africa. And on December 8, 1840, he set sail for Kuruman.

A Coast To Coast Venture
However, upon his arrival he was disappointed by the small population of Africans living in the region. He was determined to reach a larger population. A year later, he was granted permission to move 700 miles into the African interior to establish another missionary station. Livingstone wasted no time setting things up at Mabotsa.

In 1845, he returned to Kuruman where he met and married Robert Moffat's daughter, Mary. Their marriage lasted eighteen years and witnessed the birth of four children.

Livingstone often took his family with him while crossing the African wilderness. Still, there were many times when they could not be together. The longest period of separation was for five years between November of 1853 and May 1856. Livingstone completed one of the most amazing journeys ever undertaken - a coast to coast venture that covered four thousand miles of unexplored land, most of which was located along the Zambezi River.

Sorrow And Victory
After an extended visit to England, Livingstone and his wife began their last journey together. It was during this adventure that Livingstone faced the severest trial of his life; Mary died in 1862 from complications related to African fever.

Sorrow and discouragement plagued Livingstone: "It was the first heavy stroke I have suffered, and quite takes away my strength. I wept over her who well deserved many tears. I loved her when I married her, and the longer I lived with her I loved her the more."

After several failed attempts to set up mission stations in the interior and along the coast, Livingstone concluded God was leading him in another direction. No European had ever ventured into North Africa. This would be his next goal and his greatest accomplishment for future missionary work. The charts and maps he left us changed the way we view Africa.

"I am a missionary, heart and soul," wrote Livingstone. "God had an only Son, and He was a missionary and a physician. A poor, poor imitation of Him I am, or wish to be." In this service I hope to live; in it I wish to die." No other person has done more to further mission efforts than David Livingstone. He also raised in Europe so powerful a feeling against the slave trade that through him slavery may be considered as having received its death blow.

Marching inland in 1866, Livingstone reached Lake Nyasson on August 8 and began journeying north toward Lake Tanganyika. He wrote: "O Jesus, grant me resignation to Thy will, and entire reliance on Thy powerful hand...The cause is Thine. What an impulse will be given to the idea that Africa is not open if I perish now!..."

Livingstone was often weakened by bouts of African fever. Months rolled by and then years without the outside world knowing where he was. This is when a New York reporter, Henry Morton Stanley, accepted the challenge to "find Livingstone."

On November 10, 1871, Stanley's caravan, loaded with supplies, reached Ujiji, Africa. A thin, frail Livingstone stepped out to meet him as Stanley bowed, took off his hat, and spoke the now famous words, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume."

Beloved The World Over
Livingstone was beloved and honored by the world. Yet when Stanley found him, he was weak and undernourished. The two quickly began a friendship. After Livingstone's death, it was Stanley who diligently worked to see missionaries serving in the land his friend had opened.

Death came to David Livingstone on April 30, 1873, after a long illness. His African companions reported they found him kneeling beside his bed where he had said his last earthly prayer. Though his heart remained in Africa, his body, along with his belongings - papers and maps - was transported to Bagamoyo on the coast and then sent to England, where he is buried in Westminster Abbey.


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