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Alexander Gordon Laing


1793 - 1826

African explorer. Born in Edinburgh, Laing was the son of a teacher of classics who provided his early schooling. He completed his education at the University of Edinburgh and left for Barbados in 1811. Here he was able to secure a commission in the army. In 1822, he was posted to West Africa in an attempt to suppress the slave trade and promote commerce. He was able to approximately identify the source of the Niger although was unable to reach it due to native attacks. After returning to Britain in 1824, he returned to Tripoli in North Africa (1825) intent on crossing the Sahara an heading south to continue his exploration of the Niger basin. He was the first European to reach Timbuktu in August 1826, but was murdered there a month later. He was posthumously honoured by the French Société de Géographie, and the French government later placed a plaque on the house he used in Timbuktu, which remains today.


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