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LIVINGSTONE, David, African traveller and missionary, was a native of Scotland, and was born at Blantyre, in Lanarkshire, in the year 1817. At the age of ten he became a ' piecer' in a cotton-factory, and for many years was engaged in hard work as an operative. An evening school furnished him with the opportunity of acquiring some knowledge of Latin and Greek, and, finally, after attending a course of medicine at Glasgow University, and the theological lectures of the late Dr Wardlaw, professor of theology to the Scotch Independents, he offered himself to the London Missionary Society, by whom he was ordained as a medical missionary in 1840. In the summer of that year he landed at Port Natal in South Africa. Circumstances made him acquainted with the Rev. Robert Moffat, himself a distinguished missionary, and whose daughter he subsequently married. For 16 years L. proved himself a faithful and zealous servant of the London Missionary Society. The two most important results achieved by him in this period were the discovery of Lake Ngami (August 1, 1849), and his crossing the continent of South Africa, from the Zambesi (or Leeambye) to the Congo, and thence to Loando, the capital of Angola, which took him about 18 months (from January 1853 to June 1854). In September of the same year he left Loando on his return across the continent, reached Linzanti (in lat. 18 17' S., and long. 23 50' E.), the capital of the great Makololo tribe, and from thence proceeded along the banks of the Leeambye to Quilimane on the Indian Ocean, which he reached May 20, 1856. He then took ship for England. In 1857, L. published his Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, a work of great interest and value. Returning in 1858 as British consul at Quilimane, he spent several years in further exploring the Zambesi, in ascending the Shire, and discovering Lake Shirwa and Lake Nyassa - the Maravi of the old maps. A narrative of these discoveries was published during a visit he paid to England in 1864-1865. In the meantime, Lakes Tanganyika, Victoria Nyanza, and Albert Nyanza, had been discovered by Burton, Speke, and Baker, but the true source of the Nile was still a problem. With a view to its solution, L., in 1866, entered the interior, and nothing was heard of him for two years. The communications received from him afterwards describe his discovery of the great water-system of the Chambeze in the elevated region to the south of Tanganyika. It flows first west and then turns northward, forming a succession of lakes, lying to the west of the Tanganyika. To determine its course after it leaves these, whether it joins the Nile, or turns westward and forms the Congo, was the grand task which L. seemed resolved to accomplish, or perish. He was much baffled by inundations, the hostility of the slave-dealers, and by the want of supplies, which were habitually delayed and plundered by those who conveyed them. When nothing certain had been heard of him for some time, Mr Stanley, of the New York Herald, boldly pushed his way from Zanzibar to Ujiji, where in 1871 he found the traveller in great destitution. On parting with Mr Stanley, L. started on a fresh exploration of the river-system of the Chambeze or Lualaba, convinced that it would turn out to be the head-waters of the Nile. In May 1873, however, he died at Ilala, beyond Lake Bemba. His body was brought home in April 1874, and interred in Westminster Abbey. His Last Journals were preserved, and published in Dec. 1874.


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UPDATED: 18 April 2014

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