Livingstone, David (1813–1873), a British missionary and the greatest of all explorers in Africa. He believed it was his duty as a pioneer to open up the continent for other missionaries. Livingstone was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, and as a boy worked in a cotton mill. He took a medical degree, studied theology, and then went to South Africa in 1840 for the London Missionary Society. Livingstone began working among the Bechuanas in the mission founded by the Rev. Robert Moffatt. He worked there several years and married Moffatt's daughter.
Livingstone began his explorations in 1849 by crossing the Kalahari Desert and discovering Lake Ngami. He reached the Zambezi River, traced its course to the Indian Ocean, discovered Victoria Falls, and crossed the continent from west to east. When Livingstone returned to England in 1856 he was acclaimed and honored for his discoveries. He told of his explorations in Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa (1857), which provided Europe with its first information about the interior of Africa.
In 1858 Livingstone was appointed British consul at Quelimane (in what is now Mozambique in southeast Africa) and was made head of an official expedition. He explored the Zambezi region, followed the tributary Shire River, and discovered Lake Nyasa. On his return to England he published Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambezi and Its Tributaries (1865). One of its purposes was to arouse world indignation against the slave trade.
In 1866, as British consul to Central Africa, Livingstone set out to find the headwaters of the Nile. He explored the Lake Tanganyika region and the headwaters of the Congo River. He was constantly hampered by serious illness, however, and for several years nothing was heard from or about him. Henry M. Stanley of the New York Herald was sent by James Gordon Bennett, the owner of the newspaper, to find Livingstone. They met at Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika on November 10, 1871. Stanley's greeting is reported to have been, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” The two did further exploration until Stanley left in March, 1872.
Livingstone set out again on his search for the Nile headwaters but soon became ill. On May 1, 1873, his servant found him, dead, kneeling by his bed. His men buried his heart on the spot, preserved the body, and carried it with his papers and instruments to the coast. The body was buried in Westminster Abbey. In 1874, The Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa was published.
The memorial tablet in Westminster Abbey reads:
For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, and abolish the desolating slave trade of Central Africa.