Dr. Livingstone I presume?

David Livingstone (1813–1873) was a Scottish missionary and explorer and a great hero of the British popular culture of his time. A rags-to-riches success, he became a medical doctor and then a missionary trying to save Africa from the slave trade, all the while building his reputation as a fearless explorer and scientific investigator.

He was convinced that opening Africa to trade and colonialism would eliminate slavery, and he believed that its many rivers would provide the key transportation infrastructure. He spent the last years of his life searching for sources of the Nile river. In 1866 he started an exploration from Zanzibar with a large team of locals. The exploration didn’t go well, with most of his assistants deserting him and stealing his supplies. In bad health and lacking supplies, he continued searching for several years, scrambling for food and medicine wherever he could and losing touch with his contacts in Europe.

Another well-known African explorer of the time, the journalist Sir Henry Morton Stanley, was sent by the New York Herald in 1869 to find the missing Dr. Livingstone. It took him until November 1871 to locate the doctor in the town of Ujiji on the African Great Lake, Lake Tanganyika. Considering that when Stanley spotted Livingstone, they were the only two Caucasians for hundreds of miles in any direction. He was perhaps being a bit tongue-in-cheek when Stanley offered the missing explorer his famous greeting, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Reported in the Herald in August 1872, the actual encounter may or may not have happened as written, but it sure makes for a good story.

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