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The Story of David Livingstone
David Livingstone was born on 21 March 1813, in the mill town of Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland. His father was a committed Protestant Sunday school teacher, who took a literal interpretation of the Bible. His father’s religious influence played a key role in influencing the young David, and he grew up with an aspiration to become a missionary himself.From an early age, David was fascinated with geology, science and the natural world. Due to his father’s influence, he worried that science might conflict with religion. However, after reading Thomas Dick’s ‘Philosophy of a Future State’, David was able to reconcile religion with science.In 1836, he entered Anderson’s College in Glasgow to train as a medical missionary. Livingstone enthusiastically travelled to Africa where he strengthened his ideals of becoming a Christian missionary, searching for a greater scientific discovery, improved commerce and the abolition of slavery.However, in Africa, he realised the difficulty of making converts to Christianity. During the 1840s he gained only one real convert to Christianity. He also narrowly survived death after being mauled by a lion. In 1845 he married Dr Robert Moffat’s eldest daughter, Mary. Although Mary had lived in Africa since she was four, she did not share her husbands interest in exploration. Although they had six children, David spent little time with his family, especially towards the end of his life. His wife Mary came to suffer from alcoholism, and David admitted one regret he had was that he didn’t spend more time with his family.After this initial period, David Livingstone increasingly turned his attention to the exploration of the African continent which was largely unexplored by Westerners. Of particular note was his discovery (the first by a Westerner) of the great waterfall Mosi-oa-Tunya (“the smoke that thunders”) waterfall. Livingstone renamed it Victoria falls in honour of Queen Victoria. In 1854-56 he made the first successful transcontinental journey across Africa from Luanda on the Atlantic to Quelimane on the Indian ocean.Livingstone had great success as an explorer partly because of his ability to get on with local tribal chiefs. He travelled lightly without soldiers, and this non-confrontational approach made it easier for him to be welcomed. He also had an ability to empathise with African locals and Livingstone was generally warmly remembered by native Africans – helping to improve relations between Britain and native Africans. On these expeditions, he also toned down his Christian evangelism. He preached a Christian message but did not force tribal chiefs to accept it, like some of his contemporaries. However, although he had good qualities in endearing himself to locals, he was less praised by fellow members of his own expeditions. He was often criticised for his poor leadership and judgement – being subject to different moods and intolerant of criticism.However, other members of Livingstone’s servants later expressed admiration for the steely determination of Livingstone in the face of difficulty and illness.At the end of the 1850s, he resigned from the London Missionary Society to devote more time to exploration. He received a commission from the Royal Geographic Society and this helped fund an exploration of the River Zambezi. This exploration encountered many difficulties and was perceived to be a failure by many.In 1866, Livingstone returned to Africa for a mission to discover the source of the Nile. He never quite attained this goal but helped to fill in details about the Great Lakes of Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru. Livingstone also helped identify Lake Malawi and Lake Ngami. Unfortunately, on this expedition, he again lost helpers due to illness or desertion. He also had supplies stolen. This ironically required him to depend on the help of slave traders, which annoyed him.After suffering a variety of tropical illness’ throughout his life, Livingstone died of dysentery on 1 May 1872, aged 59. He passed away knelt in prayer. His loyal local African attendants Chuma, Suza Mniasere and Vchopere were somewhat reluctant to give up Livingstone. In the end, they cut out his heart and buried it at a special memorial at the village of Ilala near the edge of the Bangweulu Swamps in Zambia. His body was then taken to the coast where it was put on a ship to England and buried in Westminster Abbey.One year before his death, Livingstone was met by a correspondent from the New York Herald, Henry Morton Stanley. Livingstone had been lost in the heart of Africa for six years – his letters rarely getting through. It is said that Stanley famously found Livingstone in the town Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on 27th October 1871. He greeted Livingstone with the famous refrain: Dr Livingstone I Presume?
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