Who said “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” and why?

Henry Morton Stanley said “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”. And here’s why.

Stanley was a Welsh adventurer in the 19th century who, prior to his fame, had become a naturalized American citizen and fought in the American Civil War.

He had also been a member of the merchant marines, had fought with the British against the Ethiopian king, Theodore II, and had trekked West to report for the New York Herald on the American expansion into the frontier.

He earned a reputation as an adventurer, chasing stories around the globe for newspaper editors. As a result, the New York Herald commissioned him once again in 1869 to “go find Livingstone!” in Africa.

Dr. David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and explorer, had left for Africa some three years earlier searching for the source of the Nile River. He hadn’t been heard from since that time.

The world was curious about what had happened to him. Was he dead? Was he lost? Did he decide to “go native” and never come back? Stanley set out to retrace his steps.

Stanley left the island of Zanzibar on March 21, 1871, with about 2,000 men, and headed into the interior of Africa. On November 10, his party came across an encampment at Lake Tanganyika.

When a weak and sickly doctor emerged from his tent, Stanley asked him, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” The whole story was put into his New York Herald article. The phrase traveled the globe, becoming part of modern history.

Stanley resupplied Livingstone and nursed him back to health. The two then explored the northern end of Lake Tanganyika together before Stanley headed back home in 1872, leaving Livingstone to continue on with his exploration.

Two years later, when Livingstone died, Henry Stanley packed up and headed back to Africa to continue where Livingstone left off, still searching for the source of the Nile.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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