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David Livingstone Blantyre Scotland

David Livingstone Blantyre Scotland

Missionary, explorer and travel writer. He was born on 19 March 1813 in Blantyre, Lanarkshire. After an elementary education he was sent at the age of ten to work in the local cotton mill. During his spare time he read voraciously and increased his knowledge through long periods of study, with the result that in 1836 he was admitted as a student at Andersen's College in Glasgow to train as a medical missionary. He entered the service of the London Missionary Society in August 1838 and in 1841 he received his first posting to southern Africa. There, from the Society's outposts at Kuruman and Koloberg, he began the series of explorations into the Kalahari Desert and beyond that led to the discovery of Lake Ngani in 1849 and of the Zambesi River in 1851. Between 1852 and 1856 he made a further exploration of the African interior and his trans-African expedition of some 4000 miles took him across the territories of present-day Angola, Zambia and Mozambique.

Livingstone's exploits caught the Victorian imagination and his accounts of his deeds, published in Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa (1857), helped to make him one of the best-known men of his day. The book is notable tor Livingstone's descriptions of the African tribal way of life and of the topography of central Africa, which he described as a paradise on earth. It was deservedly popular, although critics later in the century dismissed many of his findings and attacked it for his exaggerated claims for the region as a place of imperial exploitation. Nevertheless it brought him sufficient fame to attract funds for further explorations, and having resigned from the London Missionary Society in 1858 he returned to Africa. Another journey on the Zambesi resulted in the discovery of Lake Nyassa, but Livingstone's impatience with his colleagues and his growing belief in the divinity of his mission in Africa led to quarrels and unhappiness among his party. He returned to England in 1864 and published the second account of his explorations in The Zambesi and its Tributaries. Between 1867 and his death on 30 April 1873 he was in Africa again, engaged on his efforts to discover the source of the River Nile, an expedition that was doomed to failure owing to its lack of financial backing and Livingstone's debilitating illness. Contact with him was lost, and then found again by the American reporter Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) who greeted him with the famous words, "Dr Livingstone, I presume.' Livingstone was one of the great African explorers, a man of God and a humanitarian, who attacked the worst excesses of the slave trade. Although his evangelism failed, he believed implicitly in the missionary's role as educator, physician and improver. His written works include, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa (1857); The Zambesi and its Tributaries (1865); Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa (1874).

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