Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

MARCH 19th  

On this day in history in 1813, was born the explorer David Livingstone.


On this day in history in 1821, was born the explorer Richard Burton.

Livingstone never intended to be an explorer.  He had studied medicine in order to become a medical missionary in China, but the Opium Wars prevented travel to the Far East. Livingstone asked the London Missionary society to send him anywhere as a missionary so they sent him to Africa. Livingstone was a failure as a missionary. He had only one convert to Christianity and that one later reverted to paganism. But Livingstone was undaunted. He took to exploration, hoping to find sites for new missions and attempting to find new trade routes in the hope that commerce would bring in Christianity.

Burton was an officer in the army in India. He was trained as a spy and undertook operations in Arabia to obtain intelligence from the Muslim world. He was the first Christian to visit Mecca, the sacred site forbidden to non- Muslims. Whilst in Egypt, Burton became interested in the source of the Nile. He and a companion, Speke, followed the river to what they thought was its origin, Lake Tanganika. 

Livingstone too was interested in the source of the Nile. He travelled through the jungle, was mauled by a lion, took sick with fever and discovered Lake Victoria, which he took to be the source of the Nile. Unfortunately, Livingstone could not find his way out of the tropical forest. The public were curious as to what could have happened to the great missionary explorer. His name and the mystery of his whereabouts became a popular speculation. The New York Herald sent a reporter, H M Stanley, to attempt to find Livingstone. Stanley found him in the jungle and greeted him with famous words “Doctor Livingstone, I presume.” 

Once Stanley had returned to civilisation, he immediately telegraphed his editor whose name was Gordon Bennett. He wrote “Gordon Bennett, I have found Livingstone”, thus bringing a new exclamatory idiom into the English language.

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