Birthday: March 19, 1813
Nationality: British, Scottish
Died At Age: 60
Sun Sign: Pisces
Born Country: Scotland
Born in: Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, UK
Famous as: Explorer, Missionary
Spouse/Ex-: Mary Moffat
siblings: Charles Livingstone
children: Agnes, Elizabet, Robert, Thomas, William Oswell and and Anna Mary
Died on: May 1, 1873
place of death: Lake Bangweulu, Chief Chitambo's Village (in modern-day Zambia)
education: University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde,
David Livingstone was a Scottish missionary, doctor and an explorer in Africa. He is well-known for his extensive explorations of the African continent. He was one of the most popular national heroes of the 19th century Victorian Britain. He is also credited for shaping the Western attitude towards Africa. He is credited with the discovery of various water bodies such as the famous Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. Seeing the atrocities of slavery he made efforts to help eradicate the African slave trade through ‘Christianity, Commerce and Civilization’. He was a missionary protestant, a scientific researcher, reformer with an inspirational story of rising from rags to riches. His missionary exploration and glorification as posthumous national hero in 1874 resulted in the formation of several central African Christian missionary initiatives and activities.
Childhood & Early Life
David Livingstone was born on March 19, 1813 in a dwelling building for cotton factory workers in Blantyre, Scotland, to Neil Livingstone and Agnes as their second child.
Like other children in the mill, he also attended the Blantyre village school.
At the tender age of 10, he was working in the cotton mill of Henry Monteith & Co wherein he tied broken cotton threads on the spinning machines and later as a spinner too.
With the help and support of his family, he managed to study even after 14 hour long working shifts.
His father always encouraged David to study only Theology but David’s inherent passion for science could not keep him away from the subject for long.
He was always fascinated by the relationship shared by religion and science, which was further reinforced by missionary Karl Gützlaff's ‘Appeal to the Churches of Britain and America on behalf of China’.
The impact of a preacher like Ralph Wardlaw was so great that David quit the Church of Scotland for a local Congregational church
Being influenced by the appeal by Gutzlaff for medical missionaries for China in 1834, he resolved to study medicine.
David finally enrolled at the Anderson’s College (known for its science and technological education). Following this, he also studied Greek and theology at the University of Glasgow.
He studied medicine, midwifery and botany at the Charing Cross Hospital Medical School for two years (1838-40) for which he also learnt Latin from a local Roman Catholic, Daniel Gallagher.
David also joined the London Missionary Society (LMS) wherein he also continued his studies in the field of medicine and got associated with a church in Ongar, Essex.
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His passion for going to China was curbed by the Opium Wars of 1839-42 following which, his acquaintance with a renowned Scottish missionary, Robert Moffat from Africa ignited his passion for exploring Africa.
Without further delay, he set sail for South Africa on November 20, 1840 and reached Cape Town on March 14, 184.
David worked at the edge of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa in 1841 wherein his conviction of exploring deeper in Africa and acquainting the people there with Christianity strengthened further.
He started off in 1849 to travel across the Kalahari following which he expedited the Lake Ngami in 1849 and the upper Zambezi River in 1851.
From 1852 onwards, four long years were spent hunting for a route from the explored Zambezi River to the coast.
The year 1855 marked the discovery of the famous ‘Victoria Falls’ following which he reached the origin of the river from the Indian ocean and the coastal region of Quelimane (modern day Mozambique) in 1856. Thus, he became the first European to cross Southern Africa in breadth.
His exploration helped unveil several facts about the African continent thereby fulfilling the incomplete western knowledge about the continent.
His work on his expeditions to Africa was published as ‘Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa’ in 1857 which was highly acclaimed.
As a result of his explorations, Central Africa was further exposed to missionaries who took education, health care and other facilities to these areas. Trade was facilitated by the African Lakes Company which further improvised relations between Africa and Britain.
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David spent the year 1858 in further exploring the eastern and central parts of Africa on behalf of the British Government which was not acclaimed on grounds of unsatisfactory results.
His return to England in 1864 was marked by his efforts to abolish slavery; in the context of which the ‘Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries’ was published which also covered the disease malaria.
Another exploration ended up with the discovery of Zanzibar in 1866. His pursuit of the origin of river Nile ended up with a village called Nyangwe where he saw a distressing carnage by Arabic slave traders.
David’s efforts in the eradication of slavery are not less known. His writings in the form of books, letters and journals did impact the society.
His support system coming from traders promoting slavery did not help him for long in his expeditions as a result he lacked expert advice and his last expedition was more with servants and slavery victims.
Awards & Achievements
David was honored with a gold medal by the British Royal Geographical Society for the first European exploration of Lake Ngami in 1849.
He was also made the Fellow of the Royal Geographical society; he kept the association with the society throughout his life.
Quite a number of statues have been erected in his honor all over the world like the one at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe,
The town of Livingstonnia and the city of Blantyre, Malawi, have been named after David Livingstone and his birthplace respectively.
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Various schools and hospitals in Africa have been named after him - The Rhodes–Livingstone Institute in Livingstone and Lusaka, Zambia, the David Livingstone Teachers’ Training College, The David Livingstone Clinic in Lilongwe, Malawi, Scottish Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole and many more.
The Livingstone College, Salisbury, North Carolina, the Livingstone Adventist Academy, Salem, Oregon and The Livingstone Healthservice in Jardìn Amèrica, Misiones, Argentina, have also been named in his honor.
His image was displayed on £10 notes issued by the Clydesdale Bank from 1971-1998.
Personal Life & Legacy
David married Mary Moffat on January 2, 1845, the daughter of Robert Moffat and had six children with her.
His wife Mary Moffat, born in Africa was a missionary by origin. Inflicted by ill health post marriage, she had a difficult time travelling with David. Succumbing to health issues, she passed away in 1862 leaving David alone in his missionary pursuits for another eleven years.
He was out of touch with the outside world due to severe illness with malaria and dysentery in his last years.
David’s accomplishments and acclaim came at the cost of his family. His failure to devote quality time with his wife and children was always regretted by him during his last years.
David Livingtone passed away at the age of 63 on May 1, 1873 in Chitambo, Zambia, from malaria and internal bleeding due to dysentery.
His attendants Chuma and Susi removed his heart and buried it under a Mvula tree which later became famous as the Livingstone Memorial. The rest of his remains were carried to Britain for burial. His body lay in repose at No.1 Savile Row, prior to interment at Westminster Abbey.