David Livingstone

1813 - 1873

Statue of David Livingston beside Glasgow Cathedral
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Statue of David Livingston beside Glasgow Cathedral

Explorer and medical missionary. Born in Blantyre (South Lanarkshire), where he began working in a cotton mill at the age of ten. Imbued with a strong Christian faith by his father, Livingstone took classes at the Andersonian University (now the University of Strathclyde) in Glasgow, followed by the University of Glasgow and in London, with the aim of training as a medical missionary. Originally intending to go to China, he was influenced by Robert Moffat (1795 - 1883), whose daughter he married in 1845, to go to Africa. Livingstone arrived in South Africa in 1841 and returned home only twice, in 1856 and 1864.

Livingstone became the first white man to travel the length of Lake Tanganyika, discovered Victoria Falls (1855) and was sent by the Royal Geographical Society to discover the source of the Nile. Having become a figure of popular interest, there was public concern when no word was heard of Livingstone, and the New York Herald sent Henry Morton Stanley to look for him. When they finally met, Stanley uttered the famous greeting "Dr Livingstone, I presume". Despite illness, Livingstone set off again to find the elusive source of the Nile, but died before achieving this aim. His servants transported his body to the coast and it was sent back to be buried at Westminster Abbey (London), although his heart was buried under a tree near the spot where he died in Zambia. A substantial monument now marks this spot.

The University of Glasgow awarded Livingstone an honorary degree in absentia in 1854. In 1857, he was granted the Freedom of the Cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, together with the Burgh of Hamilton. The Royal Scottish Geographical Society has awarded the Livingstone Medal in his honour since 1901, his daughter Agnes Livingstone-Bruce having been a co-founder of the Society in 1884. In 1967, the pop group The Beatles included Livingstone's face amongst many others on the cover of their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

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