David Livingstone

David Livingstone, the Pathfinder of Africa, was a Scottish Congregationalist Pioneer Medical Missionary with the London Missionary Society and explorer in Africa, born on 19th March 1813 at Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland to Neil Livingstone and Agnes, a protestant Christian family. At the age of ten, David was employed in the cotton mill of H.Monteith. He and his brother John working for 12-hours daily as "piecers," tying broken cotton threads on the spinning machines. The mill offered their workers schooling took advantage David.

His father, Neil Livingstone, a Sunday school teacher and teetotaler, was very committed to his beliefs, handed-out Christian tracts on his travels as a door to door tea salesman and who read extensively books on theology, travel and missionary enterprises. This rubbed off on the young David, who became an avid reader, but he also loved scouring the countryside for animal, plant and geological specimens in local limestone quarries. His father had a fear of science books as undermining Christianity and attempted to force him to read nothing but theology, but David's deep interest in nature and science, led him to investigate the relationship between religion and science. In 1832, he read Philosophy of a Future State by the science teacher, amateur astronomer and church minister Thomas Dick he found the rationale. He needed to reconcile faith and science and apart from the Bible this book was perhaps his greatest philosophical influence.

David Livingstone's family
Other significant influences in his early life were Thomas Burke, a Blantyre evangelist and David Hogg, his Sabbath School teacher. At age nineteen, David and his father left the Church of Scotland for a local Congregational church, influenced by preachers like Ralph Wardlaw who denied pre-destinatarian limitations on salvation. Influenced by American revivalistic teachings, his reading of the missionary Karl Gutzlaff's "Appeal to the Churches of Britain and America on behalf of China" enabled him to influence his father that medical study could advance religious ends.

His experience from sixteen years in cotton mill, first as a piecer and later as a spinner, was also important. He attended a village school at Blantyre along with the few other mill children with the endurance to do so, but a family with a strong, ongoing commitment to study also reinforced his education. After reading Gutzlaff's appeal for medical missionaries for China in 1834, he began saving money and in 1836 entered Anderson's College, now University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow to study medicine. In addition, he attended divinity lectures by Wardlaw, a leader at this time of vigorous anti-slavery campaigning in the city. He applied to join the London Missionary Society in 1837 and was accepted subject to missionary training. He continued his medical studies in London. In1838, he starts the missionary training at Essex under London Missionary Society. Despite his impressive personality, he was a plain preacher and would have been rejected by the LMS had not the Director given him a second chance to pass the course.

Hamilton's house where Livingstone stayed

Livingstone hoped to go to China as a missionary, but the First Opium War broke out in September 1839 and the LMS suggested to West Indies instead of China. In 1840, while continuing his medical studies in London, Livingstone met LMS missionary Robert Moffat, on leave from Kuruman, which is a missionary outpost in South Africa. Excited by Moffat's vision, he focused his ambitions on Southern Africa. He was deeply influenced by Moffat's judgment that he was the right person to go to the vast plains to the north of Bechuanaland, where he had glimpsed "the smoke of a thousand villages, where no missionary had ever been."

Victoria Falls

In November 1840, David Livingstone had become Licentiate of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons and he was ordained a missionary in London. He was assigned to Kuruman by the LMS and sailed for South Africa. In March 1841, he reached Cape Town in South Africa and in July he arrived at the Moffat's mission Centre at Kuruman, South Africa. Upon arrival, he was disappointed at the unexpectedly small size of the village and an indigenous Christian population, after Moffat's twenty years of work, of only about forty communicants and a congregation of 350. He attached himself to the plans of missionary Rogers Edwards to found a mission beyond North in territory increasingly disturbed by traders, hunters and African settlers. In 1842 he completed two long journeys to North from Kuruman. In 1843, a mission was founded at Mabostsa and he set-up a new mission at Mabotsa among the Kgatla people in 1844. He was attacked by a lion which might have killed him if it had not been distracted by the African teacher, Mebalwe, who was also badly injured. Both recovered but Livingstone's arm was partially disabled and caused him pain for the rest of his life.

David Livingstone Memorial

Dr.Robert Moffat arrived in Kuruman with his family in December 1843, Livingstone got engaged Mary Moffat who is the eldest daughter of Dr.Robert Moffat in May 1844. Then he married Mary Moffat on 2nd January 1845. After falling out with Edwards, Livingstone moved to an out-station at Chonuane among the Kwena under Chief Sechele and finally moved with the Kwena to Kolobeng in 1847 under pressure of drought. In January 1846, Mary Moffat gave birth to a child; Robert and he begin his work at Chonuane. In May 1847, berth of their second child, Agnes and at Kolobeng began an infant's school while Livingstone worked on a philological analysis of the Setswana language, in which he had become fluent. Livingstone always emphasized the importance of understanding local custom and belief as well as the necessity of encouraging Africans to proselytize; however he always had acute difficulties finding converts he considered suited for training to be missionaries.

Livingstone's house in Mikindani,Southern Tanzania where he lived in 1866.

Livingstone grew increasingly frustrated with settled missionary strategies and more willing to imagine more unconventional missionary methods. As Livingstone began to plan for new missionary initiatives, he recognized the difficulties presented by his growing family and in 1849 he sent his family to Kuruman as he planned further inland travels. Later Mary and David's family returned to England.

Livingstone's Statue at Victoria Falls
In March 1849, birth of their third child, Thomas, they came to Lake Ngami in Africa with William Cotton Oswell on the Zambezi Expedition. In 1850 birth on their fourth child, Elizabeth, (dies after 6 months). In August 1851 they reached Zambezi with William Cotton Oswell in the meantime they birth of their fifth child, Oswell.

After the Kolobeng mission had to be closed because of drought, he explored the African interior to the North, in the period 1852–56 and was the first European to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya ("the smoke that thunders") waterfall, which he renamed Victoria Falls after his monarch, Queen Victoria. In 1852 Mary and children leave for Britain and arrived Linyanti in May 1853. In November 1853, Livingstone set up a mission at Zambezi and in May 1854 he reached Luanda. Livingstone was one of the first Westerners to make a transcontinental journey across, Zambezi, in Africa and Luanda. Despite repeated European attempts, especially by the Portuguese, Central and Southern Africa had not been crossed by Europeans at that latitude owing to their susceptibility to malaria, dysentery and sleeping sickness which was prevalent in the interior and which also prevented use of draught animals (oxen and horses), as well as to the opposition of powerful chiefs and tribes.

Livingstone's Memorial

He was a proponent of trade and Christian missions to be established in Central Africa. His motto, inscribed in the base of the statue to him at Victoria Falls, was "Christianity, Commerce and Civilization”. At this time, he believed the key to achieving these goals was the navigation of the Zambezi River as a Christian commercial highway into the interior. He returned to Britain in December 1856, to try to garner support for his ideas and to publish a book on his travels which brought him fame as one of the leading explorers of the age. Livingstone had a spiritual calling for exploration rather than mission work and encouraged by the response in Britain to his discoveries and support for future expeditions, in 1857 he resigned from the London Missionary Society after they demanded that he do more evangelizing and less exploring.

Henry Morton Stanley meets Livingstone

In 1858, with the help of the Royal Geographical Society's president, Livingstone was appointed as Her Majesty's Consul for the East Coast of Africa.In March 1858, he leaves for Zambesi Expedition with Mary and son Oswell whom he leaves in Cape Town with the Moffats and in May they reached the mouth of Zambesi. Their sixth child, Anna Mary was born in November, at Kuruman. In 1859 Mary and children return to England. In 1862 they returned to the coast to await the arrival of a steam boat specially designed to sail on Lake Malawi.

Livingstone attacked by a Lion
Mary Livingstone died on 27 April 1862 of malaria and Livingstone continued his explorations. Attempts to navigate the Ruvuma River failed because of the continual fouling of the paddle wheels from the bodies thrown in the river by slave traders and Livingstone's assistants gradually died or left him. It was at this point that he uttered his most famous quote, "I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward." He eventually returned home in 1864 after the government ordered the recall of the expedition because of its increasing costs and failure to find a navigable route to the interior. The Zambezi Expedition was castigated as a failure in many newspapers of the time, and Livingstone experienced great difficulty in raising funds further to explore Africa. Nevertheless, the scientists appointed to work under Livingstone, John Kirk, Charles Meller, and Richard Thornton did contribute large collections of botanic, ecological, geological and ethnographic material to scientific Institutions in the United Kingdom.

David Livingstone's Statue

In January 1866, Livingstone returned to Africa, this time to Zanzibar, from where he set out to seek the source of the Nile. Richard Francis Burton, John Hanning Speke and Samuel Baker had identified either Lake Albert or Lake Victoria as the source. Livingstone believed the source was further south and assembled a team of freed slaves, Comoros Islanders, twelve Sepoys and two servants, Chuma and Susi, from his previous expedition to find it. After prolonged scuffle, following the end of the wet season he returned to Ujiji arriving on 23 October 1871. Although Livingstone was wrong about the Nile, he discovered for Western science numerous geographical features, such as Lake Ngami, Lake Malawi and Lake Bangweulu in addition to Victoria Falls mentioned above. He filled in details of Lake Tanganyika, Lake Mweru and the course of many rivers, especially the upper Zambezi and his observations enabled large regions to be mapped which previously had been blank. Even so, the furthest north he reached, the north end of Lake Tanganyika, was still south of the Equator and he did not penetrate the rainforest of the River Congo any further downstream than Ntangwe near Misisi.

Burial site of Mary Moffat Livingstone in Chupanga, Mozambique

Livingstone was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London and was made a Fellow of the society, with which he had a strong association for the rest of his life. He completely lost contact with the outside world for six years and was ill for most of the last four years of his life. Henry Morton Stanley, who had been sent to find him by the New York Herald newspaper in 1869, found Livingstone in the town of Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika on 27 October 1871, greeting him with the now famous words "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" to which he responded "Yes, and I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you." These famous words may be a fabrication, as Stanley has torn out the pages of this encounter in his diary. Even Livingstone's account of this encounter does not mention these words. However, the phrase appears in a New York Herald editorial dated 10 August 1872 and the Encyclopædia Britannica and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography both quote it without questioning its veracity.

Statue of Livingstone on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls

Despite Stanley's urgings, Livingstone was determined not to leave Africa until his mission was complete. His illness made him confused and he had judgment difficulties at the end of his life. He explored the Lualaba and, failing to find connections to the Nile, returned to Lake Bangweulu and its swamps to explore possible rivers flowing out northwards.

Livingstone's Tomb
David Livingstone died in that area in Chief Chitambo's village at Ilala near the edge of the Bangweulu Swamps in Zambia, (Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa) on 1 May 1873 from malaria and internal bleeding caused by dysentery. He took his final breaths while kneeling in prayer at his bedside. Britain wanted the body to give it a proper ceremony, but the tribe would not give his body to them.

Finally they relented, but cut the heart out and put a note on the body that said, "You can have his body, but his heart belongs in Africa!" Livingstone's heart was buried under a Mvula tree near the spot where he died, now the site of the Livingstone Memorial. His body together with his journal was carried over a thousand miles by his loyal attendants Chuma and Susi, and was returned to Britain for burial. After lying in repose at No.1 Savile Row, (Savile Row is a shopping street in Mayfair, Central London) then the headquarters of the Royal Geographic Society, now the home of bespoke tailors Gieves & Hawkes his remaining remains were interred on 24 April 1874 at Westminster Abbey.

Statue of David Livingstone

Livingstone's Statue, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh


Popular posts from this blog

D G S Dhinakaran

India Celebrates World Sunday School Day

Charles Mead