Hollywood special FX guru lends model to David Livingstone exhibition

Explorer David Livingstone
Explorer David Livingstone
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A HOLLYWOOD special effects expert has loaned a model of David Livingstone battling a lion for a major new exhibition devoted to the explorer.

Family connections between 90-year-old Ray Harryhausen - famed for his work on Clash of the Titans and Jason the Argonauts - are also revealed in the National Museum of Scotland’s tribute to Livingstone.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Harryhausen’s wife is the great grand-daughter of Livingstone and he designed one of the statues in the grounds of the museum devoted to the Scot in his home town of Blantyre, in Lanarkshire.

The Edinburgh museum’s exhibition, Doctor Livingstone, I Presume?, tells how the Scot gained almost mythic “celebrity” status in 19th-century Britain as a scientific investigator and explorer, but enjoyed fame at the expense of his wife and family.

Rarely-seen artefacts from Livingstone collections around the world have been brought together for the exhibition, including collars and chains Livingstone removed himself from African slaves.

A weaving loom, mineral samples, maps, letters and the hats worn by Livingstone and New York Herald journalist Henry Morton Stanley during their famous encounter in the African jungle.

More than 100 artefacts feature in the exhibition, which is being held to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Livingstone’s birth next April.

Sarah Worden, curator of African collections at the museum, said: “We’re delighted to bring a new focus to the man, the myth and his legacy.

“This exhibition brings together exciting new research, our spectacular African collections and Livingstone’s personal possessions to recount some of the epic exploration and achievements which led to his rise to celebrity in Victorian Britain.”

Livingstone was born to a working-class family in Blantyre, on the banks of the Clyde, in 1813 and started working in a local cotton mill at the age of ten.

Taught to read and write by his father, he developed a love of natural history.

He studied medicine, theology and Greek in Glasgow, before completing his medical studies in London. He joined the London Missionary Society and was ordained in 1840.

From 1841 until his death in 1873, Livingstone explored the interior of central and southern Africa. His initial aim was to spread Christianity and bring commerce and “civilisation” to these regions, but his later missions were more concerned with exploration, firstly of the Zambesi and later to find the source of the Nile. He died in Zambia.

Livingstone was one of the first medical missionaries to enter southern Africa and the first in central Africa. He was often the first European to meet local tribes, winning their trust as a healer and medicine man. He was a prolific writer and his journals, letters and published narratives provide observations on tropical diseases.


David Livingstone was born on 19 March 1813 to a religious, disciplined family in Blantyre, Scotland, the second of seven children. The family lived in one room in Shuttle Row, a tenement building owned by the mill company where Livingstone started work at the age of ten. The room is preserved at the David Livingstone Centre.

Studying chemistry at university in London, he befriended George Wilson, who went on to become the first director of what is now the National Museum of Scotland.

The epic west-east crossing of the continent led to Livingstone’s famous ‘discovery’ in 1855 of the spectacular Mosi-oa-tunya waterfall which he named Victoria Falls.

He was attacked by a lion in one of his early expeditions to Africa. The incident would become famous in his Missionary Travels. He criticised the artist who depicted it in a letter to his publisher, John Murray, complaining that anyone who’d actually seen a lion would die laughing at the image.

The lion attack left Livingstone with a broken arm, and proved significant in his life and death. While recovering at Kuruman mission Livingstone met and married Mary Moffat, daughter of Reverend Robert Moffat.

After he died, and his body made the long trip back to Britain, the injured arm was enough to prove his identity.

The lion also highlights a rather surprising connection between Livingstone and the film special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts, Sinbad, Clash of the Titans).

Livingstone was awarded the Royal Geographical Society gold medal for his most difficult and dangerous journey across Africa, the trans-African expedition of 1853-56 which made him a national celebrity. The subsequent Zambezi expedition.

Livingstone witnessed the ‘unspeakable horror’ of the massacre of four hundred Manyema people, mostly women, by Arab slave traders in 1871. His account of the massacre, published in the posthumous Last Journals of 1874, fuelled public outrage in Britain and sealed his reputation as a champion in the fight against slavery.

Livingstone is described as an explorer and missionary. In fact, he was considerably more successful in the former than the latter, having managed to secure just one convert to Christianity in his years in South Africa.

He was also a scientist, and closely studied the effects of malaria on his children. As a treatment, he developed his ‘Rousers’, a formula which included quinine, jalap, calomel and rhubarb. In this, he anticipates the ‘discovery’ of the importance of quinine in the treatment of malaria.

During his exploration of Africa, he travelled over 46,000km, mostly on foot.

Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) was a journalist sent by the New York Herald newspaper in 1869, to find Livingstone. When they finally met, after a two year search, Stanley greeted him with the now famous words ‘Dr Livingstone, I Presume?’ Finding Livingstone made Stanley himself famous overnight. The newly laid Trans-Atlantic cable meant his news story was reported simultaneously to both Britain and America. It marked an important episode in the early history of global media.

Livingstone is held in almost unique esteem in parts of Africa, particularly Malawi and Zambia. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that place names like Blantyre (Malawi) and Livingstone (Zambia) survived the post-colonial era when many other towns and settlements were renamed.

Livingstone died in the village of Chitambo, Ilala, Zambia in May 1873 after suffering a slow and painful decline from malaria and dysentery. His heart was buried under a tree close to where he died. His embalmed body and personal belongings were carried over a thousand miles to the coast by his African companions, Abdullah Susi and James Chuma and returned to Britain by Jacob Wainwright. Livingstone was buried in Westminster Abbey on 18 April 1874 with national honours, the only explorer ever to be given that distinction.

The current exhibition, Dr Livingstone, I Presume is not the first time that the National Museum of Scotland has celebrated his life, having previously the Livingstone Centenary exhibition in 1913, which was extensively covered in The Scotsman.