Only an Englishman can come up with the idea of greeting a lost (and after a long search discovered) contemporary with the words: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”.
But it must have been this proverbial coolness, this typical English way of behaving, that allowed the English to build the largest empire in human history and be the dominant power in all fields for more than a century.
For this small island off the northern coasts of Europe had colonies from Tierra del Fuego to Africa and far into Asia.
And it had also the suitable people not only to administer these countries, but to explore ever larger parts of the unknown world and thus spread the European civilization.
One of them was the great African explorer David Livingstone, who was born in 1813 in Blantyre (near Glasgow, Scotland).
Already at a young age he was determined to go to China as a missionary and studied Greek, theology and medicine for this purpose.
But after nothing came of it, he embarked 1841 to South Africa to spread the word of God there.
But it did not keep him in one place for long, but possessed by his missionary zeal and an irrepressible thirst for research, he was drawn further and further into the unknown land and soon he had made further advances than any white man before him.
As early as 1849 he wandered through the Kalahari Desert to Lake Ngami, reached the headwaters of the Zambezi River in 1851 and crossed South Africa from 1853 to 1856, making him the first European to cross the African continent from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Indian Ocean in the east.
In November 1855, he discovered the massive falls of the Zambezi, which he called “Victoria Falls” in honour of his queen.
Back in England he gave lectures about his travels, which became incredibly popular.
But again and again he went back to the black continent to explore this huge, unknown land mass.
In 1866 he set out to search for the sources of the Nile.
But in 1869 he fell ill and since no more news came to England, he was considered dead there.
But Henry M. Stanley, a correspondent of the “New York Herald”, didn’t want to believe this rumour and started his search. On 28 October 1871 he found Livingstone on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, where he greeted him with the words mentioned at the beginning.
Together they explored the northern end of the lake, but when Mr. Stanley traveled back to England, Livingstone did not want to accompany him anymore.
Emaciated and weak, he prepared for his last expedition. But soon he was so ill that he had to be carried in a hammock and on 1 May 1873 he died on the southern shore of Bangweulu.
True to his motto “My heart is in Africa” his faithful companions Susi and Chuma (a slave freed from him) took his heart and buried it under a tree.
Then they embalmed his body and carried it under great strain to the nearby east coast, from where it was shipped to Great Britain.
His body rests today at Westminster Abbey in London.