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James McCarthy

Scottish explorer, naturalist, surgeon, and philologist who opened up the Niger region to European trade and influence, was born in Kirkwall, Scotland, the eldest son of a Royal Navy captain, John Baikie. He was educated for a time at Kirkwall Grammar School in Orkney, but mainly privately, in company with his cousins. He gained a medical degree from Edinburgh University, where he also developed his interest in natural history. In 1848, together with Robert Heddie, he wrote the first part of a published study of the natural history of Orkney, Historia naturalis Orcadensis. In the same year he joined the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon, serving on no less than five different ships in the Mediterranean before being appointed in the same capacity to Haslar Hospital, Portsmouth, from 1851 to 1854. It was from here in 1854 that through the patronage of the influential Sir Roderick ...

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M. W. Daly

British adventurer, explorer, and administrator, was born in London to Samuel Baker, a businessman, and his wife. Educated in England and Germany, and a civil engineer by training, he played a notable role in the history of the Upper Nile in the 1860s. His varied and peripatetic life as a planter, big-game hunter, writer, and controversialist may be studied in his extensive writings and the enormous literature on European travel in Africa.

His work in Africa began in 1861–1865 with explorations in the eastern Sudan, up the White Nile, (where he met James Augustus Grant and John Hanning Speke), and beyond to the Great Lakes. Credit for discovery of the source of the Nile has gone to Grant and Speke; Baker, famously accompanied by his second wife, Florence, explored and named Lake Albert Nyanza. For these adventures, embellished in several books, Baker was much acclaimed, and in 1869 as ...

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Elizabeth Heath

During the mid-nineteenth century, Heinrich Barth traveled widely in northern Africa and the central Sudan and authored some of the earliest and most comprehensive works on North and West African history. The son of a German businessman, Barth earned a degree in classics and linguistics at the University of Berlin. He completed his studies in 1845 and subsequently spent two years traveling in northern Africa, where he perfected his Arabic and kept a detailed diary of his trip. After a disappointing experience teaching in Germany, he accepted an offer to join a British expedition to the central Sudan. At first led by James Richardson, the expedition left Tripoli in 1850. Within a year, however, Richardson died and Barth assumed command. During the next four years, Barth led the group through present-day Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, and Mali and visited all of the major towns ...

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Kate Tuttle

James P. Beckwourth, born of mixed-race parentage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, escaped an apprenticeship to a St. Louis, Missouri blacksmith and went west, taking a job with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He became an experienced trapper and fighter in the sparsely settled western territories. In 1824 the Crow Indian tribe adopted Beckwourth, who then married the daughter of the chief and earned such renown in battle that he was renamed Bloody Arm. Although he left the tribe after several years—and after earning honorary chief status—he continued a lifelong friendship with the Crows.

Criss-crossing the western and southern frontiers, Beckwourth worked as a guide, prospected for gold, served as a United States Army scout during the third Seminole War and was a rider for the Pony Express He also worked with California s Black Franchise League in an effort unsuccessful at the time to repeal a law barring blacks from ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

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French explorer and administrator, was born on 26 January 1852 in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, to the aristocratic family of Ascanio Savorgnan de Brazza and Giacinta Simonetti de Brazza. Although he was born and raised in Italy, he volunteered to join the French navy and became an officer in 1869 and served in Algeria. In 1874, he proposed to the French Minister of the Navy an expedition to travel up the Ogooué River, the longest waterway in Gabon, to see if it eventually reached the Congo River. Although French officials had established a small coastal enclave on the northern Gabonese coast in 1843, the limited budget and personnel of the colony had restricted exploration of the Gabonese interior.

Brazza assembled a collection of several dozen Frenchmen and Senegalese soldiers for this mission His ability to combine intimidation with diplomacy proved very useful as he struggled to convince Adouma Fang ...

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After schooling and naval service in France, the Italian-born Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza became a naturalized French citizen in 1874. The following year he led his first official trip to Africa to explore Gabon. From 1875 to 1878 he traveled along the Gabon coast and up the Ogooué River to its source, also reaching the Alima River, a tributary of the Congo River. In 1880, in competition with American journalist and explorer Henry Stanley, Brazza traveled into the Congo River basin interior. There he signed a treaty with leaders of the Téké people, clearing the way for French control of the northern bank of the Congo River, an area that would be known as the Moyen-Congo. He served as general commissioner of the Moyen-Congo from 1884 to 1898, establishing the town that became Brazzaville and building the colonial administration As commissioner Brazza became disenchanted with ...

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Jeremy Rich

French traveler and travel writer who explored West Africa, was born in 1799 in Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon in the Deux-Sèvres region of France. His family was extremely poor. Caillié’s father had been banished to work as a prisoner rowing on government boats before he was born. His mother died very young. According to his later account of his travels in West Africa, Caillié had dreamed of reaching the fabled trade center of Timbuktu on the banks of the Niger River since he was a child. Whether or not this actually was the case, Caillié did manage to reach the Senegalese town of Saint Louis in 1815 He stayed there for several months and tried to join an English expedition up the Gambia River This project did not work out He then spent some time working on the French Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe but soon returned to Senegal He came back to ...

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Elizabeth Heath

In 1825 the Paris Société de Géographie offered a prize of 10,000 francs to the first person to visit the legendary city of Tombouctou and return with a description of it. With this challenge they made official an undeclared competition among European Explorers that had already claimed the lives of more than twenty men. Since 1788, explorers had been trying to reach the Sahelian market town, rumored to be the richest in Africa but also one of the most heavily guarded. Only one European, a Scottish explorer named Major Alexander Gordon Laing, had yet entered the fabled city, but he was murdered only days after leaving. However, in 1827 explorer René-Auguste Caillié, born in Mauzé, France, embarked on a journey to Tombouctou that would at last win the prize.

Inspired by the adventures of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719 Caillié had already made two voyages to ...

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Jamie Bruce-Lockhart

British Royal Navy commander, who played a significant role in the opening of relations between Europe and the interior of west Africa in the 1820s through his participation in two expeditions sponsored by the British government to investigate countries of the central Sudan (Arabic, bilad as-Sudan land of the blacks and the final course of the River Niger He made important diplomatic contacts with leading states of the region and while he ultimately failed to clarify where the river entered the sea his accounts shed light on regions of Africa then unknown to Western science He was the first to chart every degree of latitude from the Mediterranean to the Guinea coast His extensive reports introduced Europeans to the character and riches of long established civilizations of the African interior and his investigations reliant as in part they were upon indigenous sources and aid paved the way for ...

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Born in Annan, Scotland, Hugh Clapperton went to sea at the age of thirteen and later became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. In 1821 the British Colonial Office sent him, along with explorers Walter Oudney and Dixon Denham, on the Bornu Mission to trace the true course of the Niger River in Africa. They crossed the Sahara from Tripoli, in present-day Libya, and became the first Europeans to see Lake Chad, which Denham set off to explore on his own. From there, Clapperton and Oudney headed west into present-day Nigeria toward Kano, but Oudney died along the way and Clapperton reached it alone. He then traveled on to Sokoto but, detained by local rulers, was unable to find a guide to take him the 240 km (150 mi) to the Niger. He returned briefly to England before coming back to West Africa in 1825 With British ...

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Jeremy Rich

explorer, was born on La Réunion, a French colonial possession in the Indian Ocean, on 31 July 1831. His father was French; his mother was a mixed-race woman from Réunion. Du Chaillu later tried to hide his mixed-race ancestry and claimed he had been born in Paris. Du Chaillu's father was forced to flee Réunion to evade legal proceedings before his son's birth. However, Du Chaillu did manage to reach France, where he spent part of his adolescence training in Paris to become a taxidermist. His father found work for a French trading firm in the Gabon Estuary in 1846, which had been colonized by the French navy between 1839 and 1844. This fledgling colonial coastal enclave had attracted only a few French merchants, but was known as a source of ivory and camwood. With the coming of the Revolution of 1848 to France ...

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Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable's biography combines conjecture and lore with a few established facts. He was probably born in St. Marc, Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti) around 1750 to a French mariner and an African-born slave. He may have been educated in Paris and employed as a sailor during his young adult life. Du Sable entered North America through either Louisiana or French Canada, and first appeared in historical documents in 1779, when a British officer in the Great Lakes region reported that the local trader “Baptist Point de Sable” was “much in the interest of the French.”

The British detained Du Sable for suspected “intercourse with the enemy,” but he soon impressed his captors as a well-educated and highly capable frontiersman. British governor Patrick Sinclair sent Du Sable to the Saint Clair River region to manage trade and serve as a liaison between Native Americans and ...

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Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable is reputed to be the founder of Chicago because he was the first non–Native American to build a home on the future site of the city. As an enterprising free black man on the Revolutionary frontier, Du Sable has become a symbolic figure of great importance to the modern-day African American community, especially in Chicago. The lack of much concrete evidence about his life seems only to enhance his mythic importance as a pioneering black settler and prominent frontiersman. Documents composed by English speakers spell his name variously as “Au Sable,” “Point Sable,” “Sabre,” and “Pointe de Saible.”

Du Sable s birth date is not known It is thought that he was born in the town of Saint Marc on the island of Saint Domingue in what later became the first free black republic in the Americas Haiti At the time of his birth Saint ...

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Jeremy Rich

explorer and Baptist missionary pioneer in central Africa, was born in Sancreed, Cornwall, England, on 21 August 1849. His father moved the family to Birmingham in 1852. Although his father was an Anglican, Grenfell became interested in Baptist teachings and attended a Baptist church in his youth. When Grenfell reached the age of fifteen, he joined the great revival of 1859 that swept through much of England and was baptized. Like so many other British and North American missionaries in the nineteenth century, the books of David Livingstone captivated Grenfell with stories of adventure. Before seriously considering a missionary career, Grenfell worked as an apprentice at a hardware factory. This practical training later was extremely valuable in central Africa as Grenfell traveled on his steamer up and down the Congo River. In 1873 he decided to leave behind his work and previous religious training by enrolling at ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

Arctic explorer, was born in Charles County, Maryland, to Lemuel Henson, a sharecropper, and his wife, Caroline Gaines. As best as can be determined from the conflicting accounts of his life, Matthew's mother, Caroline, died when he was just two years old. His father then married Nellie, a neighbor with whom he already had a child. A few years later Lemuel died, leaving Matthew in the care of his abusive stepmother. Shortly after his eleventh birthday, Matthew left his five siblings and fled to Washington, D.C., where he worked for food and lodging at a restaurant owned by Janey Moore, whom he called “Aunt Janey.” He may have attended the N Street School in Washington before a seaman known as Baltimore Jack captured his imagination with tales of adventure upon the high seas.

At age twelve Henson signed on as cabin boy on the Katie ...

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James McCarthy

Scottish explorer and geographer of Africa, was born in Edinburgh in 1844. Alexander Keith Johnston was the son of the eminent geographer and cartographer of the same name, who had established the highly respected engraving and mapmaking firm of W. & A. K. Johnston with his brother William. Although the young Keith was educated at prestigious schools in the Scottish capital, he was also tutored carefully by his father, and learned those European languages in which significant geographical material was published. Like his father, Keith’s interest extended well beyond conventional cartography, and he made important contributions to oceanography, hydrology, and global climatic influences. Both were influential figures in the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), itself the most important national institution in the promotion of worldwide discovery and the development of the nineteenth-century British Empire, not least in Africa.

After a period as superintendent of drawing and engraving at the prestigious ...

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Kenyatta D. Berry

stowaway and thwarted polar explorer, was probably born and raised in Brunswick, Georgia, but had moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, by the mid 1920s. Little is known about his early life. Seeking to become the first African American to reach the South Pole, he hid for three days on the City of New York, the flagship of the Byrd Antarctic Expedition. The Byrd Antarctic Expedition was lead by Richard Evelyn Byrd, a native Virginian who was the brother of U.S. Senator Harry Floyd Byrd. The ship left Manhattan on 26 August 1929 with three stowaways, including Lanier. The two other stowaways were found in time to ship them back on a harbor tug. Lanier was discovered three days later in the forecastle head between a crate and a side of the ship. The New York Times chronicled his discovery in a series of articles on ...

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Jeremy Rich

explorer and geographer, was born on 14 September 1848 in Leipzig, then in the German kingdom of Saxony. He was the son of a shoemaker. After graduating from secondary school at the Nicolaigymnasium, he went to the University of Leipzig. In 1870 he earned a degree in geography from this institution. From 1870 to 1873 he taught at a private school in Vienna, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire became his permanent home for the rest of his life. After having joined the Austro-Hungarian civil service and prepared maps on some of its eastern and southern territories for two years, Lenz decided to become an African explorer in 1874 The Deutschen Gesellschaft zur Erforschung Äquatorial Afrikas DAG a German organization dedicated to exploration in central Africa recruited Lenz to visit the French colony of Gabon There Lenz was to travel up the Ogooué River to see if it connected with ...

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colonial official and explorer, was born on 17 July 1858 in Chandernagor, a tiny city and former French colonial enclave in southern India. When Liotard's parents, Pierre Liotard and Hélène Liotard (née Durup de Dombal), died while Victor-Théophile was a very young boy, several families of doctors and pharmacists helped to raise Liotard. With their support Liotard eventually studied at a secondary school in Rochefort, France. He enrolled at the Ecole de Médicine Navale in Rochefort in 1882 after a short stay in Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. On 28 July 1883 Liotard graduated from medical school with a degree as a pharmacist. From 1884 to 1885 Liotard served on the Iles du Salut in French Guiana South America where he helped to battle a yellow fever epidemic Reassigned briefly to Cherbourg the French naval headquarters Liotard received orders to serve in the French colonial medical service in the ...