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“Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”: The Life and Times of an Explorer in Africa

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, May 4, 2017 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1A0020
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
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Illustration of Henry Morton Stanley meeting David Livingstone in Africa, ca. 1875 (University of Southern California)

“Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” is the now-famous greeting spoken on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in November 1871 by Welsh-American journalist and explorer Henry M. Stanley. The moment was the culmination of Stanley’s expedition to locate explorer and missionary David Livingstone, who had been missing in Africa for more than four years.

Livingstone had spent the previous three decades traversing the continent at a time when Europeans who ventured in the African interior were generally expected to be dead within six months. He gained international fame through his discovery of the Victoria Falls, almost ruined his reputation trying to navigate the Zambezi, and at the time of his encounter with Stanley was seeking the Holy Grail of geographic quests—the source of the Nile.

Livingstone began his career in Africa as a missionary and always remained deeply concerned with the fate of the continent’s people. He was determined to use his influence to bring an end to the East African slave trade, and when the atrocities he had witnessed where reported by Stanley they shocked the British public and galvanized the government to pass legislation to close the slave markets of Bagamoyo and Zanzibar.

Russell Gammon, one of Africa’s leading wilderness guides, narrates the remarkable life story of a man born into the poverty of a Glasgow slum in 1813 who became a renowned explorer eulogized at his funeral in Westminster Abbey as the most important man of his generation. Livingstone’s discoveries opened a new era of African exploration. Between 1842 and 1875, British explorers including John Hanning Speke, Richard Burton, Samuel White Baker, Verney Lovett Cameron, and James Augustus Grant followed in his footsteps, crisscrossing the continent in a series of increasingly audacious expeditions to chart areas that would soon be annexed into the British Empire.

A third-generation Zimbabwean, Gammon has been conducting small-group safaris throughout southern and East Africa for more than 25 years, working from his home base in Victoria Falls.

Smithsonian Connection examines Henry M. Stanley’s harrowing 1871 quest to find England's most celebrated explorer—which also tells a story of newfound fascination with Africa, the growing power of newspapers, and the United States' emergence as a world power