Famous 19th Century Explorers

Find out more about the greatest 19th Century Explorers, including George Mallory, David Livingstone, Robert Falcon Scott, Alfred Russel Wallace and Roald Amundsen.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly
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Famous As: Journalist
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.

 2 David Livingstone

David Livingstone
5
Famous As: Physician, Explorer
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.

 3 Sir Ernest Shackleton

Sir Ernest Shackleton
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Famous As: Antarctic explorer
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

Daniel Boone
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Famous As: Explorer
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

Roald Amundsen
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Famous As: The first person to reach the South Pole, Explorer
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

Richard Francis Burton
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Famous As: Translator
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

Hugh Glass
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Famous As: Hunter
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.

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 8 Robert Peary

Robert Peary
4
Famous As: Explorer
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

Kit Carson
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Famous As: Explorer & Soldier
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

Jim Bridger
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Famous As: Mountaineer
Birthdate: March 17, 1804
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Richmond, Virginia, US
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 Robert Falcon Scott

Robert Falcon Scott
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Famous As: Explorer, Naval officer
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.

 12 Fridtjof Nansen

Fridtjof Nansen
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Famous As: Explorer, Polymath
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.

 13 Alfred Wegener

Alfred Wegener
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Famous As: Polar Researcher
Birthdate: November 1, 1880
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: November 1, 1930

In the early 1900s, meteorologist Alfred Wegener did not find too many takers for his theory that all the continents of the world had initially been a single mass named Pangaea and that continental drift had caused them to split apart. Wegener died on his fourth expedition in Greenland.

 14 Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace
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Famous As: Naturalist, Explorer, Geographer, Anthropologist and Biologist
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.

 15 Henry Morton Stanley

Henry Morton Stanley
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Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: January 28, 1841
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Denbigh, 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.

 16 Richard E. Byrd

Richard E. Byrd
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Famous As: Naval officer
Birthdate: October 25, 1888
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Winchester, Virginia, United States
Died: March 11, 1957

American naval officer Richard E. Byrd is remembered for his pioneering expeditions to Antarctica, using airplanes. Though he was awarded a US Congressional Medal of Honor for completing the first flight over the North Pole, it was later revealed that he had returned when he was 150 miles away from the destination.

 17 John Franklin

John Franklin
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Famous As: Explorer, Royal Navy officer
Birthdate: April 16, 1786
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Spilsby, England
Died: June 11, 1847

 18 Matthew Henson

Matthew Henson
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Famous As: Explorer
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.

 19 John C. Frémont

John C. Frémont
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Famous As: Former Governor of California
Birthdate: January 21, 1813
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Savannah, Georgia, United States
Died: July 13, 1890

John C. Frémont is best remembered for his role in the expansion of US settlements in the West and also for the development of what is now known as California. A military officer, he became one of the first senators from California and had also been the 5th governor of Arizona.

 20 Floyd Collins

Floyd Collins
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Famous As: Explorer
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.

 21 Douglas Mawson

Douglas Mawson
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Famous As: Explorer, Geologist
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.

 22 John Wesley Powell

John Wesley Powell
3
Famous As: Explorer, Geologist
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.  

 23 Tippu Tib

Tippu Tib
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Famous As: Businessman
Birthdate: 1832 AD
Birthplace: Zanzibar, Tanzania
Died: June 14, 1905

 24 Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia

Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia
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Famous As: Military personnel
Birthdate: April 13, 1866
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Tbilisi, Georgia
Died: February 26, 1933

 25 Matthew Fontaine Maury

Matthew Fontaine Maury
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Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: January 14, 1806
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Spotsylvania County, Virginia, United States
Died: February 1, 1873

American astronomer, naval officer, oceanographer and author Matthew Fontaine Maury, who first served the United States Navy and then the Confederacy States Navy, made significant contributions in oceanography. His book Physical Geography of the Sea is counted among the first comprehensive books on oceanography. Navies and merchant marines across the world adopted his uniform system of recording oceanographic data.

 26 James Clark Ross

James Clark Ross
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Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: April 15, 1800
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London
Died: April 3, 1862

 27 Jim Beckwourth

Jim Beckwourth
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Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: April 6, 1798
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Frederick County, Virginia, United States
Died: October 29, 1866

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.

 28 Lavr Kornilov

Lavr Kornilov
3
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: August 30, 1870
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ust'-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan
Died: April 13, 1918

 29 Alexander Mackenzie

Alexander Mackenzie
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Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: 1764 AD
Birthplace: Stornoway, Lewis, Scotland
Died: March 12, 1820

 30 Joshua Slocum

Joshua Slocum
3
Famous As: Seaman
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. 

 31 Aleksandr Kolchak

Aleksandr Kolchak
3
Famous As: Admiral
Birthdate: November 16, 1874
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: February 7, 1920

 32 Frederick Russell Burnham

Frederick Russell Burnham
3
Famous As: Explorer, Writer
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.

 33 Alexandra David-Néel

Alexandra David-Néel
3
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: October 24, 1868
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Saint-Mandé, France
Died: September 8, 1969

 34 John Hanning Speke

John Hanning Speke
3
Famous As: Discoverer of the source of the Nile
Birthdate: May 4, 1827
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Somerset
Died: September 15, 1864

 35 Isabelle Eberhardt

Isabelle Eberhardt
3
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: February 17, 1877
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
Died: October 21, 1904

 36 Frederick Cook

Frederick Cook
3
Famous As: Explorer
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.

 37 Thomas Moran

Thomas Moran
3
Famous As: Explorer, Painter
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.

 38 John Colter

John Colter
3
Famous As: Military Person
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 Joseph Dalton Hooker

Joseph Dalton Hooker
3
Famous As: Botanist
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.

 40 John Batman

John Batman
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Famous As: Explorer, Farmer
Birthdate: January 21, 1801
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Parramatta
Died: May 6, 1839

 41 Ejnar Mikkelsen

Ejnar Mikkelsen
0
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: December 23, 1880
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Vester-Brønderslev, Denmark
Died: May 1, 1971

 42 Peter Aufschnaiter

Peter Aufschnaiter
3
Famous As: Explorer, Cartographer, Geographer, Rock climber
Birthdate: November 2, 1899
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kitzbühel
Died: October 12, 1973

 43 Freya Stark

Freya Stark
4
Famous As: Explorer
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.

 44 Frank Hurley

Frank Hurley
3
Famous As: Explorer, Photographer, War photographer, Photojournalist
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 Albert I, Prince of Monaco

Albert I, Prince of Monaco
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Famous As: Prince
Birthdate: November 13, 1848
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 26, 1922

 46 Mary Kingsley

Mary Kingsley
3
Famous As: Writer
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.

 47 Roy Chapman Andrews

Roy Chapman Andrews
3
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: January 26, 1884
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States
Died: March 11, 1960

Roy Chapman Andrews was an American adventurer, explorer, and naturalist. He is best remembered for his association with the American Museum of Natural History where he also served as the director. Andrews is credited with bringing to the museum the first-known fossil dinosaur eggs. His life and career are said to have inspired George Lucas' famous character, Indiana Jones.

 48 H. Saint John Philby

H. Saint John Philby
3
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: April 3, 1885
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Badulla, Sri Lanka
Died: September 30, 1960

 49 Sven Hedin

Sven Hedin
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Famous As: Geographer
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.

 50 Edward Whymper

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