Faithful Heroes: David Livingstone

David Livingstone was considered a British heroes of the late Victorian era.

He was born on March 19, 1813 in Blantyre, Scotland. He was the second of seven children born to Neil and Agnes Hunter Livingstone.

Portrait of David Livingstone by Anonymous; Private Collection; out of copyright

At the age of ten, he went to work in the cotton meal, working twelve hour days.

David learned to become an avid reader from his father, who was a door-to-door tea salesman. He was influenced by his readings to investigate and discover the relationship between religion and science.

In 1838, he entered Charing Cross Hospital Medical School as a student. For the next two years he studied medical practice, midwifery and botany.

On November 16, 1840, he became a Licentiate for the Faculty (now Royal College) of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. Later, he became an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty.

He felt the call to missionary work and was accepted by the London Missionary Society.

He went to South Africa as a missionary sometime around 1840-1841. His arm was wounded when he was attached by a lion. After being set and healing, he was able to use for shotting and lifting, but not to lift above his shoulder.

David Livingstone

He had several disappointments and set backs in spreading the gospel to the various missions where he worked.

On January 2, 1845, he married Mary Moffat, daughter of missionary Robert Moffatt. The couple had six children, but Livingston later said his greatest regret was not spending enough time with his children.

Mary often traveled with her husband. In 1852, he sent her and their children back to Britain for more security.

From 1852-1856, he set out to map the entire course of the Zambezi and was the first European to see the waterfall he renamed Victoria Falls. During this time he was the first Western to make a transcontinental journey across Africa.

He traveled with few in his entourage, bartering for supplies along the way and only a couple of guns for protection. He preached to all who were willing to listen, but did not force those not interested in his message.

He advocated to abolition the African slave trade and establish trade and religious missions

David Livingstone

in central Africa. His motto became “Christianity, Commerce and Civilization”.

He believed part of his calling was for exploration to find routes for commercial trade. When he returned to Britain, he garnered support for his ideas and published a book of his travels.

He left the London Missionary Society in 1857 to prevent what we term today as a conflict of interest with his non-missionary activities and scientific work.

In May 1857 Livingstone was appointed as Her Majesty’s Consul with a roving commission, extending through Mozambique to the areas west of it. This expedition lasted from 1858-1864, but Livingston had a difficult time leading a large expedition and was said to be “secretive, self-righteous, and moody, and could not tolerate criticism.” All of this severely strained the expedition.

On April 27, 1862, his wife, Mary died from malaria. She had recently given birth and was traveling with her husband.

During this expedition he uttered his most famous quotation, “I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”

The government recalled the expedition in 1864, due to increasing costs and failure to find a navigable route to the interrior. However the scientists working with him “did contribute large collections of botanical, ecological, geological, and ethnographic material to scientific Institutions in the United Kingdom.”

In January 1866, he returned to Africa determined to seek the source of the Nile River. During this time, many of his supplies were stolen, he was reported dead and he suffered from great illness. Yet, he continued to press on.

David Livingstone

He made numerous geographical identifications and filled in many details of rivers and other features. “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.”

During this expedition, he had to depend on the slave traders to help keep him alive. The very people he had written and spoken towards abolition.

Livingston was determined not to leave Africa until his mission was complete. However, he suffered from great illness, which led to confusion and judgment difficulties.

Statue of David Livingstone in Glasgow

David Livingston is known as “Africa’s Greatest Missionary”. However, he is known to only convert one African, a chief known as Sechele. However, he is known to have continued to act according to African culture, which went against Livingstone’s teachings.

Livingston taught Sechele the English alphabet and he eventually wrote the Bible in his native language.

He met journalist Henry Morton Stanley who would write his bestseller, How I Found Livingstone.

David Livingstone died in May 1873 in present day Zambia. One source said he died “in a mud hut, kneeling beside his cot in prayer.” He was sixty when he died from malaria, dysentery and internal bleeding. His attendants removed his heart and planted it under a tree near the spot where he died.

The rest of his remains were carried over 1,000 miles where they were returned to a ship bound for burial.

Upon return to London, he lay in state at the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society. He was then buried at Westminister Abbey.

Many monuments have been built in honor and memory of David Livingstone.


David Livingstone was a British hero and best known for his explorations #fatihfulheroes #heroesofthefaith Share on X



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