Born in 1813, David Livingstone was a Scottish explorer and missionary and doctor who walked across Africa from coast to coast before there were any roads, bridges, hospitals or shops. He survived fevers and infections, attacks by wild animals and Muslim slave traders.
Livingstone was the first person to bring medicine and Christian gospels to many remote regions of Central Africa. His travels covered one-third of the continent, from the Cape to near the Equator, and from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.
Livingstone was raised in poverty; the family of nine lived in a single room in a Lanarkshire cotton mill tenement. In 1838 he went to London to offer his services as a medical missionary to the London Missionary Society (LMS), which he chose because of its nonsectarian character. Livingstone was a devote evangelical Christian; his own conversion came when he realized that faith and science were compatible.
In 1840 he received his medical license, was ordained, and set sail for Cape Town. His first assignment was in Bachuanaland (now Botswana), where he was to found a mission station north of Moffat’s. Here he began what was to become his standard practice. He traveled into the interior and stayed with the local people until he learned their languages, preaching and studying the botany and natural history of the area. In 1844 he was badly mauled by a lion, so that he was forced afterward to fire his rifle from his left shoulder.
Livingstone embarked on a series of long explorations that were unprecedented at the time and that would take up the rest of his life. His determination was clear: “I shall open up a path into the interior or perish,” he said. Livingstone was convinced that Christianity, commerce, and civilization would deliver Africa from slavery and barbarism. In 1856 he returned to England and was awarded by Queen Victoria as a a national hero, but died in Zambia in 1873 where his heart is buried under a tree near Chitambo’s village.