David Livingstone was born in Scotland in 1813. After studying medicine, Livingstone went to Africa as a missionary in 1841.
By 1843, Livingstone had ventured into Kuruman, an isolated area in present-day South Africa, where he founded a missionary station in the village of Mabotsa.
There, while Livingstone tried to convert natives to Christianity, a lion pounced on him, mauling his left arm before being frightened away by gunshots. Livingstone would never be able to lift the arm above his shoulder again.
Livingstone grew discouraged, feeling that the Africans did not take Christianity seriously, and he believed that the tribal culture would have to be destroyed before they accepted Christianity. To do that, theorized Livingstone, Africa needed more trade with Europe.
Seeking to find a navigable waterway across the continent, Livingstone traveled north from Mabotsa in 1849. After covering 700 miles, he discovered a broad waterway that flowed east called the Zambezi River.
Here, exclaimed Livingstone, is the highway for British commerce and Christianity to penetrate Africa. In 1853, Livingstone turned west and plunged into Angola. Perhaps he sought a connection between the Zambezi River and the Atlantic Ocean.
Traveling through this terrain, with its lush jungles, fields covered in sharp grass, and swamps swarming with mosquitoes, left Livingstone feverish and weak. After six months, he arrived on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite his exhaustion, he wrote of his journeys, prepared meticulous maps, and sent them to England, where his exploits were applauded. But by that time, Livingstone was crossing east again, growing partially deaf in one ear from rheumatic fever and almost losing an eye to a sharp branch. On November 17, 1855, Livingstone stumbled upon a 300-foot-high waterfall more than a mile wide, thundering in clouds of mists.
He named it Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria of Great Britain. (The falls are on the Zambezi River, which borders present-day Zambia and Zimbabwe.) When Livingstone returned to England in 1856, he was showered with medals and praise for his discoveries.