Famous 19th Century Explorers

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Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Explorers, including George Mallory, David Livingstone, Robert Falcon Scott, Alfred Russel Wallace and Roald Amundsen.
Vote for Your Favourite 19th Century Explorers
 1 
David Livingstone
(Physician, Explorer)
David Livingstone
5
Birthdate: March 19, 1813
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland
Died: May 1, 1873

David Livingstone was a Scottish physician who played a major role at the London Missionary Society, where he was a pioneer Christian missionary. He is also remembered for his work as a missionary in Africa. Widely considered one of the most famous British heroes of the late Victorian era, Livingstone was mentioned in the 100 Greatest Britons list in 2002.

 2 
Nellie Bly
(Journalist and Writer Known for Her Record-Breaking Trip Around the World in 72 Days)
Nellie Bly
9
Birthdate: May 5, 1864
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Cochrans Mills, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: January 27, 1922

Nellie Bly was an American industrialist, journalist, inventor, and charity worker. She is remembered for her circumnavigation of the world in 72 days. She is also known for pioneering a new kind of investigative journalism as she worked undercover from within a mental institution to report on the institution. Nellie Bly’s life and work have inspired several works of art.

 3 
Sir Ernest Shackleton
(Antarctic explorer)
Sir Ernest Shackleton
15
Birthdate: February 15, 1874
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kilkea, Ireland
Died: January 5, 1922

Anglo-Irish Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton is remembered for leading three British expeditions to the Antarctic. He was a key figure of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. An expert in navigation, he had also been a part of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Discovery expedition. He was knighted by King Edward VII for his achievements.

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 4 
Daniel Boone
(American Frontiersman and One of the First Folk Heroes of the United States)
Daniel Boone
14
Birthdate: November 2, 1734
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pennsylvania, United States
Died: September 26, 1820

Daniel Boone was an American pioneer, woodsman, explorer, and frontiersman. His exploits as an American frontier made him one of the earliest folk heroes of the US. Widely regarded as the founder of Kentucky, Daniel Boone is popular for his exploration and settlement of Kentucky. His life and work have inspired several movies, such as the 1936 movie Daniel Boone.

 5 
Roald Amundsen
(The first person to reach the South Pole, Explorer)
Roald Amundsen
10
Birthdate: July 16, 1872
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Borge, Norway
Died: June 18, 1928

Roald Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer. Specialized in exploring the polar regions, Amundsen was an important figure of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, an era in the exploration of Antarctica. He disappeared in 1928 when he was involved in a rescue mission in the Arctic. Owing to his significant achievements in polar exploration, several places are named after him.

 6 
Richard Francis Burton
4
Birthdate: March 19, 1821
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Torquay
Died: October 20, 1890

Richard Francis Burton was a British explorer, soldier, and scholar. He is best remembered for his explorations in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Along with John Hanning Speke, Burton was the first European to witness the Great Lakes of Africa. A prolific writer, Burton wrote several scholarly articles about numerous subjects like sexual practices, falconry, human behavior, travel, and ethnography.

 7 
Hugh Glass
(Hunter)
Hugh Glass
9
Birthdate: 1783 AD
Birthplace: Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: 1833 AD

Fur-trader and explorer Hugh Glass is part of local folklore now. After being left battered by a grizzly bear on the legendary 1823 expedition of General Ashley that was supposed to explore parts of Missouri, Glass was left to die by his teammates, but ended up surviving by treating his own wounds.

 8 
Robert Peary
(Explorer)
Robert Peary
4
Birthdate: May 6, 1856
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Cresson, Pennsylvania
Died: February 20, 1920

US naval officer Robert Peary is credited with discovering the North Pole, with explorer Matthew Henson as his attendant, though he was challenged by Frederick A. Cook, who claimed to have achieved the feat independently before him. Later, diary entries revealed Peary may have been 100km short of the pole.

 9 
Kit Carson
(Explorer & Soldier)
Kit Carson
4
Birthdate: December 24, 1809
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Madison County
Died: May 23, 1868

A frontiersman and a fur-trapper, Kit Carson played a major role in the US’s westward expansion. Mostly known for guiding explorer John C. Frémont, he was criticized for his contribution to the displacement of native Americans as an Indian agent. He became part of folk legend for his exploits as a fighter, too.

 10 
Jim Bridger
(Famous Mountain Man of the American Fur Trade Era)
Jim Bridger
4
Birthdate: March 17, 1804
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Richmond, Virginia, United States
Died: July 17, 1881

Known as the ultimate American mountain man, Jim Bridger is remembered for his exploration of the Western United States. It is believed, the illiterate fur trader was the first white man to explore the Great Salt Lake and one of the first to visit Yellowstone. He also worked as a forest guide.

 11 
Fridtjof Nansen
(Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the First High Commissioner for Refugees Appointed by the League of Nations)
Fridtjof Nansen
4
Birthdate: October 10, 1861
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Oslo, Norway
Died: May 13, 1930

Fridtjof Nansen was a Norwegian polymath who won the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his post-war efforts after the First World War. A well-known explorer, humanitarian, and diplomat, Nansen achieved international fame for his attempt to reach the geographical North Pole during his Fram expedition. His techniques and innovations influenced a generation of succeeding Antarctic and Arctic expeditions.

 12 
Robert Falcon Scott
(British Royal Naval Officer and Explorer)
Robert Falcon Scott
11
Birthdate: June 6, 1868
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Plymouth, Devon, England
Died: March 29, 1912

Robert Falcon Scott was an explorer and Royal Navy officer. He is remembered for leading two expeditions to the Antarctic regions, the second of which was the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition. Although Scott and his companions died during the second expedition, they helped discover the first Antarctic fossils, which proved that the place was once forested.

 13 
Alfred Russel Wallace
(Naturalist, Explorer, Geographer, Anthropologist and Biologist)
Alfred Russel Wallace
5
Birthdate: January 8, 1823
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Llanbadoc
Died: November 7, 1913

British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace is largely remembered for his theory of evolution through natural selection, which inspired Charles Darwin’s studies. He began his career as a surveyor’s apprentice and later introduced concepts such as reinforcement in animals, also known as the Wallace effect. He was awarded the Order of Merit.

 14 
John Franklin
(Explorer, Royal Navy officer)
John Franklin
7
Birthdate: April 16, 1786
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Spilsby, England
Died: June 11, 1847
 15 
Matthew Henson
(Explorer)
Matthew Henson
3
Birthdate: August 8, 1866
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Nanjemoy, Maryland, United States
Died: March 9, 1955

Orphaned, Matthew Henson began his journey as a cabin boy at age 12 and was later hired by Robert E. Peary as an attendant for his expeditions. He, along with Peary and 4 Inuit, were the first men to set foot on North Pole. The African-American explorer later won a Congressional Medal.

 16 
Floyd Collins
(Explorer)
Floyd Collins
3
Birthdate: July 20, 1887
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kentucky
Died: February 13, 1925

Cave explorer Floyd Collins is remembered for an ill-fated solo cave exploration in Kentucky, when he lost his balance and got stuck in a tight tunnel. His rescue attempt was widely covered by the media, but the tunnel collapsed and he died eventually. His body was recovered after 2 months.

 17 
John Wesley Powell
(Explorer, Geologist)
John Wesley Powell
3
Birthdate: March 24, 1834
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Mount Morris
Died: September 23, 1902

John Wesley Powell was a geologist and explorer of the American West. He undertook a series of adventures as a young man and later joined the military. He is best known for the three-month-long geographic expedition he undertook down the Green and Colorado rivers. He was made the director of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1881.  

 18 
Douglas Mawson
(Explorer, Geologist)
Douglas Mawson
4
Birthdate: May 5, 1882
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Shipley
Died: October 14, 1958

Douglas Mawson was an Australian Antarctic explorer, geologist, and academic. Counted among the most important leaders of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, Mawson was honored with a knighthood in 1914. Best remembered for his contribution to Australian geology, Mawson was featured on the Australian one-hundred-dollar note from 1984 to 1996.

 19 
Tippu Tib
(Businessman)
Tippu Tib
3
Birthdate: 1832 AD
Birthplace: Zanzibar, Tanzania
Died: June 14, 1905
Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia
3
Birthdate: April 13, 1866
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Tbilisi, Georgia
Died: February 26, 1933
 21 
James Beckwourth
(American Mountain Man, Fur Trader, and Explorer)
James Beckwourth
3
Birthdate: April 26, 1798
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Frederick County, Virginia, United States
Died: October 29, 1867

Born to a white man and a mulatto slave woman, Jim Beckwourth was practically born into slavery. While he looked like an American Indian, he was known as a “free Negro” after being released. Known as Bloody Arm, he is credited with exploring the Beckwourth Pass.

 22 
James Clark Ross
5
Birthdate: April 15, 1800
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London
Died: April 3, 1862
 23 
Alexander Mackenzie
6
Birthdate: 1764 AD
Birthplace: Stornoway, Lewis, Scotland
Died: March 12, 1820
 24 
Lavr Kornilov
(Explorer)
Lavr Kornilov
3
Birthdate: August 30, 1870
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ust'-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan
Died: April 13, 1918
 25 
David Thompson
(Canadian Fur Trader, Surveyor and Cartographer)
David Thompson
3
Birthdate: April 30, 1770
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Westminster, England
Died: February 10, 1857

David Thompson was a British-Canadian explorer, fur trader, and surveyor. He was known to some native peoples as Koo-Koo-Sint or "the Stargazer". He traveled over 90,000 kilometers (56,000 mi) across North America over the course of his career and established a successful fur trade. He was married to a Metis woman and had numerous children. 

 26 
Joshua Slocum
(First Person in Recorded History to Sail Around the World Single-handedly)
Joshua Slocum
3
Birthdate: February 20, 1844
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Mount Hanley, Canada
Died: November 14, 1909

Joshua Slocum was a seaman who became the first person to sail single-handedly around the world. He was also a noted writer and wrote a book about his journey, Sailing Alone Around the World; the book became an international bestseller. He disappeared in November 1909, during one of his sailing adventures. He was declared legally dead after a few years. 

 27 
Aleksandr Kolchak
(Supreme Ruler of Russia (1918 - 1920))
Aleksandr Kolchak
3
Birthdate: November 16, 1874
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: February 7, 1920

Aleksandr Kolchak was a military leader who served as the Supreme Ruler of Russia from 18 November 1918 to 7 February 1920. He was also an important member of the Imperial Russian Navy and played a key role in the Russo-Japanese War and the First World War. Aleksandr Kolchak's life and career inspired a 2008 biopic titled Admiral.

 28 
Henry Morton Stanley
(Welsh-American Explorer Who Was Famous for His Exploration of Central Africa and His Search for Missionary David Livingstone)
Henry Morton Stanley
1
Birthdate: January 28, 1841
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Denbigh, Denbighshire, Wales
Died: May 10, 1904

Henry Morton Stanley was a Welsh-American explorer, journalist, colonial administrator, soldier, politician, and author. He is remembered for his exploration of central Africa and his search for the source of the River Nile. Stanley received an honorary title of knighthood in 1899. His life and career inspired the 1939 movie Stanley and Livingstone, where Stanley was played by Spencer Tracy.

 29 
Frederick Russell Burnham
(Explorer, Writer)
Frederick Russell Burnham
3
Birthdate: May 11, 1861
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Blue Earth County
Died: September 1, 1947

American scout and adventurer Frederick Russell Burnham had served the British Army in colonial Africa. He had started his career as a teenager, assisting the US Army in the Apache and Cheyenne Wars, as a tracker. He apparently also taught woodcarving to Robert Baden-Powell the founder of modern scouting.

 30 
Alexandra David-Néel
(Belgian–French Explorer, Anarchist, Spiritualist, and Writer)
Alexandra David-Néel
3
Birthdate: October 24, 1868
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Saint-Mandé, France
Died: September 8, 1969

Alexandra David-Néel was a Belgian–French explorer, anarchist, spiritualist, Buddhist, writer, and opera singer. She is best remembered for traveling to important spiritual centers, including Lhasa, Tibet in 1924, when foreigners were forbidden from entering Lhasa. Alexandra David-Néel wrote more than 30 books and her teachings influenced people like Allen Ginsberg, Benjamin Crème, Jack Kerouac, Ram Dass, and Alan Watts.   

 31 
John Hanning Speke
(Discoverer of the source of the Nile)
John Hanning Speke
3
Birthdate: May 4, 1827
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Somerset
Died: September 15, 1864
 32 
Charles de Foucauld
(French Soldier, Explorer, Catholic Priest and Hermit)
Charles de Foucauld
4
Birthdate: September 15, 1858
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France
Died: December 1, 1916

Charles de Foucauld was a cavalry officer in the French Army in the late 19th century. He later became an explorer and geographer, eventually adopting the life of a hermit and a Catholic priest. He was assassinated in 1916 and is listed as a martyr in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. 

 33 
Isabelle Eberhardt
3
Birthdate: February 17, 1877
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
Died: October 21, 1904
 34 
Frederick Cook
(American Explorer, Physician, and Ethnographer)
Frederick Cook
3
Birthdate: June 10, 1865
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hortonville, New York, United States
Died: August 5, 1940

Apart from being a qualified physician, Frederick Cook was also a passionate explorer. He was initially the surgeon on explorer Robert E. Peary’s team. He later created controversy by conflicting with Peary, saying it was him and not Peary who had first explored the North Pole, though his claims were denounced.

 35 
Thomas Moran
(Explorer, Painter)
Thomas Moran
3
Birthdate: February 12, 1837
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bolton
Died: August 25, 1926

Landscape painter Thomas Moran is best known for his paintings that depicted the Rocky Mountains. After being part of a government surveying expedition to the then-uncharted Yellowstone area, he documented the woods and thus motivated the authorities to establish the US’s first national park in the area.

 36 
Joseph Dalton Hooker
(British Botanist, Explorer and Founder of Geographical Botany)
Joseph Dalton Hooker
3
Birthdate: June 30, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Halesworth, Suffolk, England
Died: December 10, 1911

British botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker is remembered as one of Charles Darwin’s greatest supporters. The man who is known as the pioneer of geographical botany, Hooker followed in the footsteps of his botanist father. The Copley Medal winner is also known for his iconic work Genera Plantarum.

 37 
Ejnar Mikkelsen
(Explorer)
Ejnar Mikkelsen
0
Birthdate: December 23, 1880
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Vester-Brønderslev, Denmark
Died: May 1, 1971
 38 
John Colter
(Military Person)
John Colter
4
Birthdate: 1774 AD
Birthplace: Stuarts Draft, Virginia, United States
Died: November 22, 1813

Trapper-explorer John Colter, who was part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, is remembered as the first white man to visit and describe the Yellowstone National Park. He had a brush with death on three occasions, when he came face-to-face with Indian tribes. He later settled in a Missouri farm.

 39 
John Batman
(Explorer, Farmer)
John Batman
4
Birthdate: January 21, 1801
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Parramatta
Died: May 6, 1839
 40 
Peter Aufschnaiter
(Explorer, Cartographer, Geographer, Rock climber)
Peter Aufschnaiter
3
Birthdate: November 2, 1899
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kitzbühel
Died: October 12, 1973
 41 
Freya Stark
(Explorer)
Freya Stark
5
Birthdate: January 31, 1893
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 9, 1993

Freya Stark was an Anglo-Italian travel writer and explorer. One of the first non-Arabs to explore the southern Arabian Desert, Stark penned down over 24 books on her travels in Afghanistan and the Middle East. She also wrote many essays and autobiographical works. In 1968, Freya Stark embarked on her last expedition to Afghanistan at the age of 75.

 42 
Louis Antoine de Bougainville
(French Explorer and Admiral)
Louis Antoine de Bougainville
3
Birthdate: November 12, 1729
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 31, 1811

Louis Antoine de Bougainville was a French explorer and admiral. He is best remembered for his scientific expeditions, including his 1763 circumnavigation of the globe and expeditions into the Pacific Ocean. Louis Antoine de Bougainville also participated in the Seven Years' War and the American Revolutionary War.

 43 
Albert I, Prince of Monaco
(Prince of Monaco (1889 – 1922))
Albert I, Prince of Monaco
5
Birthdate: November 13, 1848
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 26, 1922

Albert I reigned as the Prince of Monaco from 1889 until his death in 1922. He was also an explorer and devoted much of his life to science, exploration, and oceanography. He is also remembered for making reforms on economic, political, and social structures. Albert I, Prince of Monaco was the recipient of several awards, including the Alexander Agassiz Medal.

 44 
Frank Hurley
(Explorer, Photographer, War photographer, Photojournalist)
Frank Hurley
4
Birthdate: October 15, 1885
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Glebe
Died: February 16, 1962

Australian photographer Frank Hurley is best remembered for recording the Antarctic expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton, known as Endurance. He also risked his life clicking pictures in both the World Wars. After running away from home at 13, he studied engineering but found his calling in photography.

 45 
Knud Rasmussen
(Polar Explorer & Father of Eskimology)
Knud Rasmussen
2
Birthdate: June 7, 1879
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ilulissat, Greenland
Died: December 21, 1933

Knud Rasmussen was a Greenlandic–Danish polar explorer. He was the first European to cross the Northwest Passage via dog sled. Also an anthropologist, he is often referred to as  the "father of Eskimology." As a young man,  he pursued an unsuccessful career as an actor and opera singer before embarking on his major explorations. 

 46 
H. Saint John Philby
3
Birthdate: April 3, 1885
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Badulla, Sri Lanka
Died: September 30, 1960
 47 
Mary Kingsley
(British Ethnographer, Scientific Writer and Explorer Known for Her Travels and Writings on West Africa)
Mary Kingsley
3
Birthdate: October 13, 1862
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Islington, London, England
Died: June 3, 1900

English ethnographer and traveler Mary Kingsley was the daughter of renowned physician and traveler George Kingsley and the niece of Charles Kingsley. Unlike girls of her era, she was well-educated and later ventured on an exploratory trip to West Africa, becoming the first European to enter remote areas such as Gabon.

 48 
Sven Hedin
(Geographer)
Sven Hedin
3
Birthdate: February 19, 1865
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden
Died: November 26, 1952

Sven Hedin was a Swedish topographer, geographer, photographer, explorer, illustrator, and travel writer. He is best known for making four expeditions to Central Asia. He later shared his experience in a book titled From Pole to Pole. A respected explorer, Hedin was honored with several prestigious awards and medals during his lifetime.

Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza
3
Birthdate: January 26, 1852
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Castel Gandolfo, Italy
Died: September 14, 1905

Born into an Italian noble family, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza had had his first taste of exploration when he traveled to Algeria aboard a ship in his early days. He later explored Africa, eventually founding French Congo, now the Republic of Congo, and the city Brazzaville, while also becoming a French citizen.

 50 
Edward Whymper
(Mountaineer)
Edward Whymper
3
Birthdate: April 27, 1840
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Died: September 16, 1911