David Livingstone: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about David Livingstone, the famous missionary, explorer and hero of Victorian Britain.

  • David Livingstone was born on 19th March 1813 in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

  • From the age of ten, Livingstone worked in the local cotton mill. He started off as a ‘piecer’, tying together broken threads of cotton) and then he worked as ‘spinner’.
  • His parents were very religious. His father, Neil, was a Sunday School teacher and he often read books Christian theology.
  • Livingstone’s parents were very keen for David to receive a good education. After working for 14 hours in the mill, he attended Balntyre village school. Hw was encouraged to read at home.

David Livingstone

  • David Livingstone wanted to become a Christian missionary. He attended Anderson’s College in Glasgow in 1836, and he studied Greek and theology classes at the University of Glasgow. He attended the London Missionary School in the late 1830s and he started to study medicine.
  • In 1840, David Livingstone set sail for South Africa as a Christian missionary.
  • During the 1840s, Livingstone made several expeditions from the mission base in Kuruman. He founded a mission at Mabotsa.
  • In 1855, David Livingstone was the first European to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya waterfalls, which he renamed Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria.
  • Livingstone came to believe that his role on Earth was to explore Africa in order to discover routes for commercial trade. He believed that commerce would provide an alternative to the slave trade and would promote civilization and Christianity.
  • He resigned from the London Missionary School in 1857 (they wanted him to do more preaching and less exploring) and he became Royal Consul for the East Coast of Africa.
  • From 1858 to 1864, David Livingstone led the Zambezi Expedition. The aim was to open up a route into Africa’s interior. Unfortunately, the expedition was a failure. The Zambezi River proved impassable and Livingstone’s leadership qualities were called into question.
  • In 1866 Livingstone set out to discover the source of the Nile River. During this journey, he became the first European to see Lake Bangweulu and Lake Ngami.
  • During his journey to find the source of the Nile, David Livingstone completely lost contact with the ‘outside’ world. He was severely ill – suffering from cholera and ulcers.
  • The New York Herald newspaper sent Henry Morton Stanley to find David Livingstone. He found him on 10th November 1871 and apparently greeted him by saying, “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”.
  • Stanley tried to convince Livingstone to return to England, but Livingstone was determined to carry on his explorations of Africa.
  • David Livingstone died on 1st May 1873 from malaria and dysentery in present-day Zambia. His body and his personal journal were shipped back to England by Chuma and Susi, his longstanding attendants. His body was buried in Westminster Abbey, London.
  • David Livingstone married Mary Moffat in January 1845. They had six children, two of which were delivered by David Livingstone during his journey across the Kalahari Desert.
  • Mary died of malaria at the mouth of the Zambezi River on 27th April 1862.
  • Only two of Livingstone’s children married and had their own children.

What next? Discover more facts about other famous Victorians or visit our Victorians resources page.