1813-1873 Missionary and explorer. David Livingstone was born near Glasgow,
Scotland. He studied medicine and theology at the University of Glasgow. He
tried to go to China as a missionary in 1838, but when the Opium War in
China closed the doors, he went to Africa.
He pushed 200 miles north of his assigned station and founded another mission
station, Mebosta. Livingstone continued on the mission field and advanced
1400 miles into the interior in spite of the hardships he encountered. He
was attacked and maimed by a lion; his home was destroyed during the Boer
War; and his wife died on the field.
Eleven years later, Livingstone was found by his bed, kneeling, and dead.
Natives buried his heart in Africa, as he had requested, but his body was
returned to Westminster Abbey in London. David Livingstone BORN: March 19,
1813 Blantyre, Scotland DIED: May 1, 1873 Chitambo, Northern Rhodesia LIFE
SPAN: 60 years, 1 month, 12 days
SELDOM ARE GOD'S GREAT GIANTS HONORED by the world-but Livingstone joins
the class of men who rank as the greatest explorers the world has ever produced.
Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Charles Lindbergh, Edmund Hillary, and Neil
Armstrong all have thrilled the world with their exploits. Add the name of
Livingstone who opened up Africa to civilization and Christianity. No wonder
the natives gave him the longest funeral procession in history, after burying
his heart under a tree near the place where he died.
Livingstone traveled 29,000 miles in Africa, added to the known portion of
the globe about one million square miles, discovered many famous lakes, the
Zambesi and other rivers, was the first white man to see Victoria Falls, and
probably the first individual to traverse the entire length of Lake Tanganyika.
Had his health not failed he would surely have succeeded in also discovering
the source of the Nile. He never lost sight of one of his great objects-bringing
Christ to Africa-although healing and exploring were often the vehicles
Born the second son of poor and pious parents, Neil and Agnes (Hunter) Livingstone,
he had three brothers and one sister. The seven were crowded into a two-room
house. The father, while delivering tea to his customers, would also distribute religious books. At age ten young David was put into the cotton-weaving
mills factory as a piecer to aid in the earnings of the family. He purchased
Rudiments of Latin, which he used to help himself study that language at evening
school. His hours at the factory were long, from 6 a.m. till 6 or 8 p.m. He
attended evening school from 8 to 10 p.m., then studied until midnight or
later. Often he placed a book on a portion of the spinning jenny so he could
catch a few sentences in passing.
By age 17 he was advanced to cotton-spinner and
the pay was such that he could put himself through medical school in Glasgow,
entering in 1830. By the time he was 22 he had studied Greek, theology and
medicine in college courses at Anderson's College and Glasgow University.
During this time he was soundly converted at age 20 (1833) while reading the
book Dick's Philosophy of the Future State.
He continued his studies in London, where he received a medical degree with
honors in 1840. During these years of study several things happened. First
he applied to the London Missionary Society in 1838 and was provisionally
accepted. Then, in 1839, God sent Robert Moffat into his life. Home on furlough,
Moffat gave stirring messages that aroused Christian people to the missionary
possibilities in Africa. One statement burned in Livingstone's soul and haunted
him as he tossed on his bed. Moffat had said: I have sometimes seen, in the
morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages, where no missionary has ever
Livingstone decided it was God's will for him to go to Africa. Finally he
received his appointment-Kuruman in southern Africa-which Moffat had built
and managed. In 1841 he landed at Algoa Bay. Here two qualities of his life
manifested themselves immediately-characteristics which were to demonstrate
future greatness. One, the ability to cope with the difficulties of travel,
whether by ox-wagon, horse or on foot. And, second, a quick understanding
and sympathy for the native Africans.
Kuruman was 700 miles due north of Cape Town, so after a ten-week journey
from Cape Town he arrived at Kuruman July 31, 1841. A few months after his
arrival he made a journey with another, covering over 700 miles, winning the
confidence of the natives wherever he went by his medical activity. A second
trip, alone, was made into the interior February to June, 1842. Returning,
he stayed until February, 1843, teaching, preaching, caring for the sick,
and building a chapel at an outstation. Then it was off to the interior again
in search of a suitable location for another mission site.
On this trip he discovered the beautiful valley of Mabotsa in the land of
the Bakatia tribe. Upon his return in June 1843 when he finally found a letter
authorizing his formation of a settlement in the regions beyond, he went back
to Mabotsa in August to open a mission station there. Crowds of sick, suffering folk begged the great white doctor to heal them. At night around the
fire he would listen to their stories, then he would tell them about Jesus.
The only problem with the area was that it was infested with lions. Livingstone
decided to rid the valley of them, for he heard that if one in a troop is
killed, the rest leave the area. He took with him Mebalwe, a native teacher-and
here happened one of the most famous incidents of his entire life. Livingstone
shot a lion. Then, as he began to reload his gun, the wounded lion sprang
up on him and shook him as a cat does a rat. His left arm was crushed to the
bone. Mebalwe grabbed his gun and, seeing the motion of the upraised gun,
the lion left Livingstone and sprang upon Mebalwe, biting him through the
thigh. Another man coming on with a spear was bitten as well before the lion
toppled over dead as a result of the bullet wound. Livingstone's arm was stiff
and useless from then on and, when he raised it, intense pain shot through
his body. The left arm had loss of power the rest of his life.
He returned to Kuruman to have his arm treated and to recuperate. Mary Moffat,
Robert's daughter, was now looking prettier every day. The two began to be
drawn to one another, and so they made some plans. As soon as his arm healed,
he would hasten back to Mabotsa to build a comfortable little stone house.
Returning, he was married in March, 1844, with Robert Moffat performing the
ceremony. Then came the 200-mile ox-wagon honeymoon. They remained at Mabotsa
until 1845. A fellow missionary named Edwards, who had joined them, made life
miserable for them, so they moved 40 miles away to Chonuane to work among
the Bakwains. Misfortune struck them the second time. The lack of rain brought
the threat of famine and a scarcity of water. One evening he announced he
was leaving and the next morning everyone was packed and ready to follow David
They found a suitable locality at Kologeng and settled down for five years
to what would be his last home on earth. By the time they left there he had
four children, three of whom were boys. However, things became very parched
for lack of rain. Rumors came about a huge waterfall. Livingstone was challenged
to find it, believing the banks of a large lake would make an ideal location
for a mission state.
Not only did mysterious Lake Ngami challenge him, but there was a powerful
chief of the Makololo tribe named Sebutuane, still farther north, under whom
he hoped to establish a mission station beyond the range of both the Boers
and the militant tribe of the Matabele. On August 1, 1849, the Livingstone
party came to the northeast end of Lake Ngami and were the first white people
to see the lake. The presence of tsetse flies and the obstruction of a local
chief prevented them from going the additional 200 miles north to meet Sebituane
and so they retraced their steps with reluctance.
They found the mission station destroyed by the Boers. In the spring of 1850
they were to start out again. As before Livingstone took his wife and children
with him, fearful that they might be molested by the Boers. But, rather than
the Boers, the disease malaria struck the party at Lake Ngami, and they had
to turn back. Back at Kologeng a baby girl was born to the Livingstones, but
she soon took fever and died. They then retreated to Kuruman, where he remained
with his family for rest until the spring of 1851. In April of that year they
set out again, determined not to return to Kologeng but to a hill region where
health conditions surely must be better. He, his family, and a fellow explorer
named Oswell found Chief Sebituane on the Chobe River, which they had discovered by taking a new route.
Now came one of life's crucial decisions-the family. Where health was safe,
hostile tribes lived. Where friendly people lived, health conditions were
bad. He decided to send his wife and children back to England until he could
find a suitable location for them. So back to Cape Town they all went, and
for the first time in eleven years Livingstone saw civilization. He was 39
and it was a sorrowful parting. He fully intended to join them in two years.
The family left for England on April 23, 1852.
Frustrated in not being able to find a healthful site for a mission station,
he gave attention to a second objective-to find a way going to the sea.
Going to Linyant on the River Tshobe, which was the capital of the Makololo
territory, he set out upon the trail of many waters, declaring, "I will
open a path into the interior or perish." It was in November, 1853, that
he started his famous journey through unknown country to the west coast
of Africa with 27 Makololo men loaned to him by a friend, Chief Sekeletu.
It was a horrible journey, with sickness, hunger, swamps, hostile tribes-six
months of hardships-but on May 31, 1854, some 1,500 miles of jungle had been
conquered as they arrived at Luanda. Broken in health, Livingstone was invited
by ship captains to take passage back to England. However, he had brought
men to a place where they could not return by themselves. He was not going
to leave them! He would guide them back to their homes. Africa had never known
He then took his party on an even longer and more perilous journey back to
Sesheke. Contending with wet weather, they could find no dry place to sleep
en route. He was nearly blinded as a result of being hit in the eye by a branch
in the thick forest, and nearly deaf because of rheumatic fever. Then there
were the perils of crocodiles, hippopotami, javelins of hostile savages. His
return was considered a miracle. Two months of rest followed. The boat he
considered going back to England in sank-and with it all his maps, journals
He now determined to find a route to the east coast of the continent. Sekeletu
gladly furnished him with the means of following down the Zambezi River, giving
him some 120 tribesmen. He started east in November of 1855. Only 50 miles
en route, he discovered a magnificent waterfall that he named Victoria Falls.
His food consisted of bird seed, manioc roots and meal. His bed was a pile
He arrived at Quilimane on the coast in May, 1856, and was given hospitality
by the Portuguese before finding a ship to take him back to England. He left
his Makololo tribesmen in good hands at Tete. Before he left, he received
a letter from the London Missionary Society, stating they did not like his
efforts of diverting from settled missions to exploration. It was a shock
to him, since he felt himself just as sincere a missionary as ever. But he
accepted a severance of relations after 16 years of service. However, the
London Royal Geographical Society was not quite so naive, as they awarded
him their gold medal, their highest honor, when he returned home. Why? Because
Livingstone had done something no one else had ever done-he had crossed the
entire African Continent from west to east. Arriving home for the first time
in 16 years, he found himself famous. His father's death while Livingstone
was en route home cast a pall on the celebrations. He was forced into a
limelight which he disliked. He was asked to give lectures, which was a burden,
for he had never been a good public speaker. Neither did he care to write,
but he did put together his Missionary Travels at the urging of many.
The universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Glasgow all gave him honorary degrees.
Now came the second segment of his life of exploration, from 1858
to 1865, which took him into the Zambezi River area under the auspices of
the British government. He was appointed the Consul for the East Coast of
Africa, and he was given a command that included his having anything he wanted or needed.
He was now on governmental salary, had better equipment and ample funds.
His wife and youngest son returned with him, his own health was much improved,
and it looked like a bright future, as he accepted the challenge of exploring
the eastern and central portions of the continent. But many disappointments
were ahead. In March 1858 at age 46 he set out for Africa. Soon after
arriving at Cape Town the trials began. His wife's health was poor, preventing
her from going further with him. She took the child and went to her parents,
the Moffats, at Kuruman. Then a second serious problem arose. Livingstone
could command and organize Africans, but managing white colleagues and a
large expedition was a total disaster. His greatest mistake was in taking
his younger brother, whose temperament was totally unsuited to expedition
work. Six years of disharmony and frustration were to follow, with a man named
John Kirk being the only capable associate of this group.
Third problem: He found out that there were myriad obstacles to the navigation
of the Zambezi. Fourth reversal: His modern equipped boat, the Ma Roberts,
was more of a hindrance than a help. She was so slow that a native canoe
could easily outdistance her. She burned so much fuel that half of the time
was given just to cut wood for her. On September 8, 1858, he did reach Tete
and his beloved Makololo tribesmen. Much exploration followed, including the
finding of Lake Nyasa on September 18, 1859, plus the discovery of the Shire
River and the Kongone entrance to the Zambezi, which was Lake Shirwa. On November
4, 1859, he received a letter informing him that he had a little daughter
born at Kuruman on November 16, 1858-a year before. Much of 1860 was spent
with his old friends, the Makololo.
At the beginning of 1861 a new boat, the Pioneer, came to replace its antiquated
predecessor. On the boat were missionaries under the direction of Bishop Charles
Mackenzie, to minister to those who lived on Lake Nyasa. He explored the Rovuma
River and helped establish the mission station on the Shire River in Nyasaland.
This had been one of his dreams-an interior mission station-but the dream
was soon shattered. Bishop Mackenzie died on January 31, 1862. Several of
his helpers also died.
That month, Livingstone's wife rejoined him after a separation of four years.
In the intervening time she had taken the youngest son and baby girl back
to Scotland, and then returned to rejoin her husband. But her failing health
prevented the reunion to last for long. She died on April 27, 1862-just three
months after she was reunited with her husband. She was buried under a great
baobab tree at Shupange on the lower Zambezi. Livingstone was 49 years old
and considered this a terrible loss. Out of 18 years of marriage, the two
were together less than half the time. He put together a boat called
the Lady Nyasa, and sought to launch her in June, 1862, on the lake for further
exploration purposes. But weather conditions prevented the launch.
Slave trading continued to plague him. Human skeletons showed up everywhere.
Finally, the Portuguese king promised to cooperate with Livingstone, but
the officers in Africa ignored such royal suggestions. Livingstone's work
actually helped rather than hindered them, for wherever he explored in
Portugese East Africa, the officers would come in and tell the natives they
were Livingstone's children. Thus, through lying and trickery, they would
obtain even more slaves-in Livingstone's own name. Then came a dispatch
from the British government recalling the expedition, saying it was more costly
than the government had anticipated. But the truth was that the Portuguese
government had written to the British Foreign Office that Livingstone's work
was offensive to them, and the Portuguese asked for his removal.
This latest blow in 1863 failed to stagger him. He decided to sell the boat,
but not to the Portuguese because it would be used in slave trade. Rather,
he decided to go to Bombay, India, and sell it there. With a small crew, only
14 tons of coal, scant provisions including little water, and having never
navigated a boat on the ocean, he left Africa April 30, 1864, and arrived
in Bombay on June 16. He was received warmly but could not sell the boat,
so he sailed to London, arriving July 10. This was his second and last trip
home. He spent his time with his children, associating with William Gladstone
and other notables, giving speeches against the slave trade and writing another
book, The Zambezi and Its Tributaries. While home, his mother died. Another
tragedy in his life-Livingstone's son Robert, who at this time was fighting
in the American Civil War to free the slaves, was killed and buried at Gettysburg.
Now the third phase of his explorations began to shape up. The Royal Geographical
Society planned and sponsored his last expedition, which was from 1866 to
1873. His influential friend, Sir Roderick Murchison, had encouraged him to
go back to find out more about the slave trading and also to discover the
sources of the Zambezi, Congo, and Nile Rivers. He returned to Africa by way
of Paris, France, where he put his daughter Agnes in school, and then Bombay,
where he finally sold the boat at a loss of $18,500. The money he got was
invested in an Indian bank, which shortly went broke-and all his funds were
lost. He sailed from Bombay on January 3, 1866, and arrived in Zanzibar on
January 26. This time he was once more going to be the only white man, having
some 60 carriers consisting of Indians, plus Chuma and Susi from Africa and
animal transport. They landed at the mouth of the Rovuma River in April, 1866,
intending to pass around Lake Nyasa far from the influence of the Portuguese.
However, in five months, he lost by desertion or treachery all but eleven
of his men and all the animals. For four years he was befriended and cared
for by people he despised-slave traders.
During this time he discovered the southern end of Lake Tanganyika (1867)
and Lakes Moero and Bangweolo (1868). In 1869 he reached Ujiji, on Lake Tanganyika,
the headquarters of the trade in ivory and slaves. By this time Livingstone was desperately ill, only to find his supplies and mail sent from the
coast plundered and gone. He spent the next two years striving to explore
the upper Congo. He struggled back to Ujiji a broken and disappointed man
beginning on July 20, 1871. On this trip a spear was thrown at him, missing
his head but grazing the back of his neck. Also, a huge tree crashed across
their path, missing Livingstone by a yard. Arriving on October 22 with three
attendants, he thought surely mail and medicine would be waiting for him-but
it was not. The medicine had been sold and the letters destroyed or sold by
On October 26, 1871, four days after his arrival, when his spirits were at
their lowest ebb, with awful sores on his feet, dysentery, loss of blood,
fever, and being halfstarved-he heard Susi, one of his faithful followers,
come running at top speed, gasping, "An Englishman" J.G. Bennet of
the New York Herald had called for a famous English reporter, Henry Stanley,
to search for and find Livingstone at all cost, or verify his death, which
by this time had been rumored. Shortly, when Stanley saw Livingstone approaching,
he pushed through the crowd of natives to see him with the now-famous and
legendary, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" A supply of food and mail was like
a tonic to the tired explorer. Stanley lived with the missionary during the
winter and did everything to nurse him and encourage him to return to England.
Failing to convince him to return to England, in March, 1872, the two men-now
good friends-parted. Livingstone accompanied Stanley to Unyamuembe. He was
to wait until men and supplies, which Stanley going to Zanzibar promised
to send him, would arrive. Waiting was difficult, but finally the promised
men and supplies did arrive.
Stanley summed up his relationship with Dr. David Livingstone with these
words: "I was converted by him, although he had not tried to do it." In
August the new party started toward Lakes Tanganyika and Bangweolo. Jacob
Wainright became a valuable and trusted aid, along with old-time stalwarts,
Susi and Chumah. Trials were reduced to such things as ants and floods. When
Livingstone grew too weak to travel, Susi carried him on his shoulders.
He found himself entangled in the swampy region of Lake Bangweolo in the middle
of the rainy season. Because of an accident to his sextant, for a while he
was lost. His dysentery attacks were almost continuous, but he kept going
across the great swamps, reaching the southern side of Lake Tanganyika, mapping
to within a day of his death. Soon he could not walk at all. He was carried
on a litter and reached Chitambo, a village in Itala where a hut was built
for him. His last written words by letter were: All I can say in my solitude
is, may Heaven's rich blessing come down on every one-American, English,
Turk-who will help heal this open sore of the world.
At 4 a.m. on May 1, 1873, his friends heard an unusual noise, lit a candle
and found him dead on his knees in the hut. They removed his heart and buried
it reverently at the foot of a mulva tree, with Wainright reading the service.
A wood monument was erected. They embalmed his body by filling it with salt,
leaving it in the sun to dry for 14 days, then wrapping it in cloth, before
enclosing the body in the bark of a Myonga tree, over which they sewed heavy
sail cloth. This package was tied to a long pole so that two men could carry
it. Along with his papers they started toward Zanzibar on a 1,000-mile trip
that was to take nine months. They arrived in February of 1874 and gave the
body to the officers of the British Consul.
When the body arrived in England on April 15, there was some doubt about
the identity of the remains. However, upon examination of the mangled left
arm, the doubt disappeared. On April 18, 1874, London came to stop as he
was buried in Westminster Abbey with the kings and the great. At his funeral
were his children, Susi, Henry Stanley-and the aged Robert Moffat, who started