Celebrating the life and legacy of David Livingstone

The life and legacy of David Livingstone – the renowned Scottish explorer, missionary and scientist – will be celebrated at the University of Glasgow next week.


The achievements of Blantyre-born Livingstone will be marked by a gathering of leading health experts from around the world on February 25 and on February 28 with a lecture delivered by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, former First Minister of Scotland.

McConnell lecture

The lecture will be introduced by Desmond Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town and social rights activist who has recorded a special video message in which he pays tribute to the University’s collaborations with African universities and its continued research interests in diseases afflicting Africa.

The Herald: Desmond Tutu will lead Glasgow celebration of Livingstone.

Of Livingstone himself, he says: “Many Scots have been at the forefront of the struggle for justice and respect for humanity, particularly in Africa, and of course David Livingstone is the greatest of all the Scottish figures in these endeavours.”

While Livingstone is well-known for his explorations of sub-Saharan Africa, his famous encounter with journalist Sir Henry Stanley and his stance against slavery, he is perhaps less recognised for his pioneering medical research.

It was Livingstone who promoted quinine’s use to prevent and treat malaria,  and who suggested that arsenic compounds might  treat the diseases caused by tsetse fly bites.  He observed that the presence of mosquitoes was linked to a higher prevalence of malaria and how ticks could transmit other fevers.

Now, as part of the celebrations marking Livingstone’s life, international experts from the World Health Organisation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, St George’s University of London, Makerere University in Uganda and the University of Glasgow will discuss historical and contemporary issues surrounding health and infectious diseases in Africa within the context of the extraordinary life of Dr Livingstone.

Professor Mike Barrett, who is leading the symposium, said: “David Livingstone was able to survive in parts of Africa where other Europeans had not and much of this was down to the medical observations he made.

“He was an astonishing man.  His observations on Africa’s wild-life, geography and its people put him on a par with someone like David Attenborough today. But he also did so much more. He was a devout Christian and pioneered in the fight against slavery.  But it is Doctor Livingstone’s achievements as a medical practitioner and the influence he had on a generation of physicians who came in his wake that we will celebrate at the Glasgow symposium.”

Sir Kenneth Calman, Chancellor of Glasgow University and Chairman of the National Trust for Scotland, will deliver the introductory speech at the biomedical conference. He says:

“This year marks the 200th anniversary of Dr Livingstone’s birth. The Glasgow University events feature as part of the David Livingstone 200 programme of celebrations taking place across the UK and Africa to commemorate the bicentenary year, with the focus to re-discover the man and the legacy he has given the world.

It is a testament to Livingstone, his medical work and discoveries that world experts of today are exploring past and current issues surrounding health and disease in Africa within the context of his extraordinary life, in which he travelled an estimated 46,000km across the continent, mostly on foot.”

The one day symposium is free to attend and will be held in the Bute Hall, University of Glasgow, on 25 February from 9:45am to 6pm. Malawian deputy High Commissioner, Mr John Tembo will be in attendance.

The lecture by the Rt. Hon Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, entitled Livingstone’s Legacy: Lessons for Today, will also be held in the Bute Hall at 6:45pm on 28 February and is free to attend, though registration is required through the following link: http://www.gla.ac.uk/davidlivingstone2013lecture


Find out more

Professor Mike Barrett, Professor of Biochemical Parasitology

For more information contact Cara MacDowall, University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3683 or email cara.macdowall@glasgow.ac.uk

Notes to editors

Details of the symposium can be found here: http://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/iii/wtcmp/davidlivingstonesymposium/


First published: 19 February 2013

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