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Back 19 / 03 / 2013

Happy 200th Birthday, David Livingstone!

Scottish missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, was born 200 years ago today! Livingstone is well known as one of the greatest explorers of Africa and certainly had an exciting life, filled with adventure! There’s a lot going on today to celebrate his achievements all those years ago. A special memorial service will be held at Westminster Abbey, where he was buried, attended by representatives from Scotland and Malawi. In Africa, there’s an arts festival in Zambia’s Livingstone and a 1000km bike tour across South Africa.

Here’s a short summary of his fascinating life:

He was born in Blantyre, just south of Glasgow. As a child he worked in the local cotton mill and was said to have a hunger for knowledge, taking schooling lessons in the evenings and studying books whilst at the mill. At 23 he began studying medicine and from here decided to become a missionary doctor. This decision led to his explorations through Africa in his later life.

In 1841 he began work at his first post in the Kalahari Desert. Livingstone wanted to reach people right in the centre of the continent and introduce them to his faith, Christianity, as well as to free people from slavery. In the coming years he travelled across the desert and in 1855 discovered a breath-taking waterfall that we now know as Victoria Falls. The next year he reached the mouth of the Zambezi on the Indian Ocean which made him the very first European to cross the width of Southern Africa. When he returned to Britian, Livingstone was a national hero, publishing books and speaking out about his exciting travels.

Later, he carried out research of eastern and central Africa for the government, but they were unimpressed with his results and called him home again. On his return Livingstone published his experiences with the slave trade in Africa, much of which shocked the public. He used money made from this to fund what would be his final expedition. He left for Africa again in 1866, this time in search of the source of the Nile and to learn and report more on slavery. This lasted until his death (from malaria and dysentery) in 1873. Livingstone’s body was taken to England and buried at Westminster Abbey.

Livingstone had spent 30 years of his life working on African expeditions and, having worked so hard to put an end to slavery, remains a respected humanitarian figure in many of the countries he saw. On top of tackling the slave trade and discovering previously unknown lands, he also left behind a strong medical legacy, with his reports helping researchers for decades and his malaria treatment being sold commercially.

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