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David Livingstone

1813-1873. Scottish missionary and explorer. Born in Blantyre, he left school at ten years of age, worked incredibly long hours in the mill, but kept a book beside him while he worked. He attended evening classes and often studied until midnight. When he was about seventeen he experienced Christian conversion and dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel in other lands. He saved in order to study medicine and theology at Anderson's College, Glasgow, and heard God's call to go to Africa through Robert Moffat* who had labored there for twenty-three years under the London Missionary Society, and whose daughter Mary he was later to marry.

Arriving in 1841, he soon moved north from Kuruman into unexplored and unevangelized territory, thus beginning the travels which were to take him some 30,000 miles over the African continent.

His first great discovery was Lake Ngami (1849). Four years later he began “the greatest journey of exploration ever made by one man”-north from Cape Town to the Zambesi River, west to the Atlantic Ocean, then right across the continent to the Indian Ocean. In the course of it he discovered the falls on the Zambesi which he named after Queen Victoria. He went home in 1856 to find himself famous. In 1857 he published Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. He returned in 1858 as a consul to explore the Zambesi River and find whether it was navigable; the expedition was recalled in 1863. After a second trip home he planned to do something to expose and possibly end the Arab slave trade, and also to discover the sources of the Nile.

During his subsequent journeyings he dropped out of sight, and rumors reached home that he was dead. The New York Herald sent out H.M. Stanley to find him, and they met at Ujiji in November 1871. Stanley tried to persuade the doctor to return home, but he refused, convinced that God still had work for him to do. He died about the beginning of May 1873, and was subsequently buried in Westminster Abbey. Many came to do homage to one who was missionary, writer, poet, linguist, scientist, doctor, and geographer. Africa owes more to him than to any other. It has been said that he not only discovered Africa, but the African too. Largely due to his reports, it was not long before slavery was made illegal throughout the civilized world.

H.M. Stanley, How I Found Livingstone (1872); W.G. Blaikie, Personal Life of Livingstone (1880 and numerous later editions); R. Coupland, Livingstone's Last Journey (1945); J.I. Macnair, Livingstone's Travels (1954); G. Seaver, David Livingstone: His Life and Letters (1957).