David Livingstone was an English missionary, doctor, abolitionist, and explorer of the African continent. Livingstone was born on March 19, 1813, and his birthplace was in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. His early boyhood was spent working at the local mill, where his mother was also employed. He went to a local evening school for his early education. In 1836, Livingstone went to Glasgow to begin his medical and theological education. In 1841, Livingstone left for Africa to begin his medical missionary work, where he landed at Cape Town, in what is now South Africa. In the succeeding years, Livingstone crossed the African continent, and would marry the daughter of another missionary.
Livingstone's father, Neil, was a Sunday school teacher who loved reading books on missionary work, theology, and travel. He helped develop his son’s love of theology books while young, afraid that science books would preempt him religiously. Neil, himself, would do door-to-door sales of tea, and give religious tracts to his customers along the way. As a young man, David Livingstone looked up to many evangelists and preachers such as Thomas Burke and Ralph Wardlaw. Later, reading Karl Gutzlaff's works about missionary efforts in China, David was inspired to combine medicine and theology as his chosen field. In this endeavor, David, also an abolitionist, saw a chance to carry out his newfound purpose in life.
In 1849, Livingstone set out across the Kalahari Desert, reaching the Zambezi River in 1851. Then, the following year, Livingstone was on a four-year exploration for a route from Zambezi to the coast. In 1855, he discovered a huge waterfall and named it after Queen Victoria. In May of 1856, Livingstone tracked the Zambezi River all the way to the Indian Ocean. This trip made Livingstone the first Englishman to cross Southern Africa from east to west. In March of 1858, Livingstone embarked on an expedition to find the interior passage of the Zambezi River. This expedition was to end in failure in 1864. However, he discovered Lake Ngami, Lake Malawi, and Lake Bangweulu along the way.
Next on Livingstone's list was finding the source of the river Nile. However, he had already encountered problems from the very beginning. This expedition started in Zanzibar. Livingstone was not a good organizer and he soon started losing his men and supplies, and he ultimately even had to depend on Arab slave traders for supplies and transport to save his life after getting sick. Although he was not feared, he was respected by the African natives enough to convince them to convert to Christianity. The only downside was that the converts would only remain Christians for a day or two before reverting back to native beliefs. This all changed when he met a chieftain from Botswana named Sechele. Soon, Livingstone successfully converted him, and also used Sechele's help to convert his own tribe members and those of the surrounding areas.
Death and Legacy
David Livingstone continually explored and preached in Africa, all the while practicing medicine. At the same time, he was also working on abolishing the slave trade. However, at the age of 60, he contracted malaria and dysentery. Livingstone, weakened by internal bleeding, died on May 1, 1873, in Chief Chitambo's village in Zambia. Livingstone's contribution to humanity was to help open up the African continent, which he loved dearly and where his missionary wife died as well, to the European world. He believed in the dignity of the African people, though he also believed that Christianity should be imposed on them. In 2002, Livingstone was honored as one of the 100 Greatest Britons.