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David Livingstone | Missionary, Navigator and Friend of the World

David Livingstone was born in 1813 into a low-income family. And worked as a child in a cotton mill but attended evening classes and became a doctor. In 1840 he joined the Missionary Society and was sent to an outpost in Botswana run by Robert Moffet. Whose daughter, Mary, he married. On his missionary and research travels. He encountered the slave trade firsthand. Livingstone vowed to devote his life to abolishing this humiliation.

David Livingstone was a Victorian hero. He traveled the roads of an unknown land as a charismatic Christian missionary and waged a lonely struggle in harsh conditions against the institution of slavery. He was a meticulous geographer, but his love of Africa shines through in his writings – the endless canopy, the beautiful landscapes, the constant presence of wild animals, the peaceful villagers with whom he shared his life and journeys and with whom he forged solid and lasting relationships.

Mary accompanied him on his first journeys, but in 1854 he returned to Scotland with his four children. David determined to stop the slave trade and set up the “center of Christian civilization. And commerce” on the banks of the Zambezi. He ventured across Africa by canoe and overland from Luanda to Quelimane. And he was discovering Victoria Falls on the way. He found no navigable route. But was nevertheless celebrated in 1854 on his return to England as a hero.

What did David Livingstone do?

Coming from a low-income family, David Livingstone has worked in a weaving mill since ten and attended evening classes, although the working day was 14 hours.

After studying medicine and theology in Glasgow, David Livingstone was sent by the London Missionary Society as a doctor and missionary to South Africa. Settling at a mission in the Kuruman Highlands in the southern Beciuana ‘country’ (1841), he learns the language of the natives and marries the daughter of local missionary Robert Moffat.

Crossing the Kalahari Desert from south to north, he discovers and explores (1 August 1849) Lake Ngami at 21° south latitude. Two years later, in 1851, he advanced northeast of Lake Ngami, crossed the Zambezi River, and established a base for his planned journey at the Seshéké settlement. His first fantastic voyage began in 1853, upstream on the Zambezi River, accompanied by 160 blacks in 33 boats.

What did David Livingstone do on his second expedition?

After returning with his family to his homeland (December 1856), he was appointed consul in Quelimane and returned to the land of Africa with his wife, son, and brother Charles (May 1858).

During his second voyage, David Livingstone explores (1859) the lower Zambezi River and its northern tributary, the Shire, discovering Murchison Falls. He mapped Lake Shirwa for the first time and surveyed the great Lake Nyassa, for which he made the first accurate map (1861). After the death of his wife on the Zambezi River in January 1862, he continued his journey exploring Lake Nyasa.

After leaving for London, he returned to East Africa in 1866. Ascending the Ruwuma River to its headwaters, crossing the mountains that bear his name, he bypasses Lake Nyassa to the south and west and enters the little-explored Lake Mweru region. Although ill, he explored the region west and southwest of Lake Tanganyika (1868), discovering Lake Bangweulu and the Lualaba River, which was justly thought to be the headwaters of the Congo River.

David Livingstone

How long did David Livingstone’s wife accompany him on expeditions?

The navigator’s European fame came from his research on Lake Ngami and his description of the life of the San (Bushmen) people. In later years, he studied the nature of the Zambezi River basin, where, among other things, he discovered for Europeans a vast waterfall, which he named after the Queen of England, Victoria.

For seven years, he was accompanied on his travels by his wife, Mary, who gave birth to four children. This family overcame all the hardships such a way of life offered; later, Mary and one of the children fell ill with a fever. Eventually, out of protection and the need to send his children to school. Livingstone had to send his wife and children to Scotland, so they would not suffer the hardships of nomadic life.

Crossing Africa from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, he was the first to conclude that Africa is flat. The flat-edged continent. He was accompanied everywhere by African guides, who became his friends. They nicknamed him ‘The Great Lion for his strength and endurance.

What was David Livingstone looking for on his last expedition?

In March 1858, he returned to Africa with his wife and six other Europeans: The Royal Geographical Society sent him to lead an expedition up the Zambezi on a steamboat. So he was given a new opportunity to turn his dreams into reality, but he was unsuccessful. The Zambezi was full of cataracts, and he couldn’t find a crossing on the Ruvuma River either. In 1862, Mary died of malaria, and Livingstone returned to England two years later – the first European to see Lake Nyasa.

The circumstances of the last expedition were, for David Livingstone, the most advantageous, for he set out in search of the source of the Nile. He traveled overland with a group of African horses and porters, as well as with the Indian Cipai, but did not reach the source of the Nile. He ran into difficulties again: he fell ill, his supplies were stolen, and many of the crew abandoned him.

For three years, nothing was heard of him. Finally, the New Herald organized an expedition to look for him, led by the young journalist Morton Stanley. On November 10, 1871, after ten months of travel, Standley found Livingstone sick and weak in the village of Ujiji. Stanley approached him thus: “Dr. Livingstone, if I am not mistaken?”-“I am,”- replied the scientist.

With whom did David Livingstone discover the Nordic land?

After seven months, he set off again, but his health deteriorated on the banks of the Bangweulu River. He lay for eight months in Chief Chitambo’s village and, on 1 May 1873, was found dead beside his bed, kneeling as if for prayer.

David Livingstone soon regained his strength and, together with Stanley, discovered the northern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

Contrary to initial suspicions, he realized that this was not the source of the Nile. But Livingstone was deaf to Stanley’s pleas to return home. He then set out on his last journey. Two faithful comrades, Chuma and Susi, embalmed him.

Where did David Livingstone die?

Together with H.M. Stanley, they explored (1871-1872) the northern shore of Lake Tanganyika. He is convinced that it has no connection with the Nile. He again surveyed the southeastern coast of Lake Tanganyika (1873). And heads for Lake Bangweulu, on whose shore he dies.

David Livingstone died in Zambia, and his heart was buried under a uvula tree near the place of death. His body and travel journals were carried thousands of miles on his arm from Zambia to England by some of his faithful men for burial at Westminster Abbey.

His campaigning, combined with the novelty of his funeral, was instrumental in the abolition of slavery in East Africa, which was achieved in 1873.

Primary Takeaways

  • He has always been on the side of the native population. Defending them and resenting the fact that the Boers and the Portuguese behaved harshly towards the Aborigines. David learned the languages of the Africans, and by doing so, he earned their esteem. And how many trials of life he had to go through.
  • Africa remained, forever, the main focus of his life. He loved it so much that he could no longer imagine life without this mysterious and unusual continent.
  • For the results of his travels, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London.


Dr. David Livingstone dedicated his life to the study of Africa. He traveled, made significant discoveries, and met interesting people. At the same time, he enjoyed great love from the African natives and responded with the same sentiment. The famous doctor’s life was full of surprises. And his heart remained in Africa forever.

The great scientist was born in 1813 to a low-income family in Scotland. He did all sorts of jobs as a child to earn a few pennies. The boy wanted to study to become an educated man. Until he was born, no one in his hometown had ever succeeded in becoming an essential man through education. So he would secretly tell only his mother about his dreams. And the mother would privately give the son a few coins to pay for his Latin lessons.

For this, he remained grateful to her all his life. David taught himself Greek and mathematics and when no one expected it. And also, shortly afterward, fate made him a navigator.