“His servants removed his heart and buried it under a tree at the spot where he died”
Written by Reginald Frontispiece Ltd
David Livingstone was born on this day March 19, 1813. He was a Scottish Doctor of Medicine, a Christian missionary and an explorer. Born and raised in the mill town of Blantyre, Lanarkshire in Scotland, by the age of ten he was working in a cotton factory on the banks of the River Clyde.
However, young David was destined for greater things and by 1840 he had qualified as a Licentiate of the Faculty (now Royal College) of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
Whilst studying medicine, he had also studied theology, and joined the London Missionary Society training course. Dr Livingstone had, by now, decided that his future lay in Africa. First stationed in southern Africa, he felt compelled to explore and map the course of the Zambezi river. In doing so, he was the first European to see the Mosi-o-Tunya (“the smoke that thunders”) waterfall, naming it Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria.
Livingstone made a transcontinental journey across Africa in 1854 to 1856 from Luanda on the Atlantic to Quelimane on the Indian Ocean near the mouth of the Zambezi.
Returning to Britain, he engaged in lecture tours and published ‘Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa’. He left for Africa again in 1858, and for five years explored east and central Africa for the British government. Unfortunately, in 1864 he was ordered home by the government who were disappointed in the results of his journey.
Once back at home, Livingstone campaigned against the slave trade. In 1866, he again returned to Africa, this time on a privately funded expedition searching for the Nile’s source.
This expedition lasted from 1866 until Livingstone’s death in 1873. Following many months of silence, American journalist and explorer, Henry Stanley determined to ‘find’ the ‘lost’ doctor. Stanley ‘found’ Livingstone near Lake Tanganika in October 1971, uttering the famous phrase “Dr Livingstone I presume?”
Dr Livingstone had not been lost and, with fresh supplies provided by Stanley, continued his search for the source of the Nile. He died in May of 1873 from malaria and dysentery-related internal bleeding. His servants removed his heart and buried it under a tree at the spot where he died. Livingstone’s body was repatriated to Britain and buried in Westminster Abbey.
Although renowned as an explorer and missionary, his own view about his life’s work is best summed up in a reference to his campaign against the Arab slave trade.
Writing to the New York Herald, he said: “And if my disclosures regarding the terrible Ujijian slavery should lead to the suppression of the East Coast slave trade, I shall regard that as a greater matter by far than the discovery of all the Nile sources together.”
Today’s photo is an antique print published by the Illustrated London News in 1872 courtesy of Frontispiece Ltd.