A picture of Livingstone from 'Dr Livingstone's Cambridge Lectures' published in 1860. Click on it to see the rest of the title page.
Livingstone always thought of himself as a missionary. The dedication above is printed in the front of his Cambridge Lectures. It encourages young men to go to Africa to convert the people there to Christianity. Click on it to see a larger version.
As a child David Livingstone (left) worked twelve hour days in a cotton mill. He went to the village school after work. He became interested in natural history by looking at the plants and rocks around his Scottish home.
His family were religious and he was inspired by pamphlets that his father brought home about medical missionaries in China. He trained as a doctor and a missionary minister. In 1840 he was sent to South Africa to teach the people there about Christianity.
Livingstone became interested in finding routes through the interior of Africa, especially by river. These would help missionaries reach more people, more easily. Livingstone was also against the slave trade in central east Africa. He thought that people might stop selling slaves if it was easier to transport and trade other goods.
He explored many places in southern and central Africa. These included the Kalahari Desert and the Zambezi river. He was the first European to see the Victoria Falls and Lake Nyasa. When he returned to Britain he was a national hero. The map below shows routes that Livingstone explored from 1849 to 1856. Click on the map and find some of the places he visited.
The explorers, Richard Burton and John Speke, had not managed to prove their findings about the source of the Nile. In 1865, The Royal Geographical Society and others sponsored Livingstone to continue the search. His journey led him to the Luluaba River, which he thought might be the upper part of the Nile. Livingstone sought the beginning of the Luluaba River. If he had looked for the end he would have found the Congo: the river route across west Africa that he looked for on other expeditions.
In 1871 the New York Herald reporter, Henry Stanley arrived to relieve Livingstone. Livingstone refused to leave Africa with Stanley. He continued looking for the source of the Nile and died in present-day Zambia in 1873.