- Joseph Thomson (explorer)
name = Joseph Thomson
birth_date = birth date|1858|2|14|mf=y
death_date = death date and age|1895|8|2|1858|2|14
Penpont, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Joseph Thomson (
February 14, 1858- August 2, 1895) was a Scottish geologistand explorerwho played an important part in the Scramble for Africa. Thomson's Gazelleis named for him. Excelling as an explorer rather than an exact scientist, he avoided confrontations among his porters or with indigenous peoples. His motto was "He who goes gently, goes safely; he who goes safely, goes far."
Penpont, Dumfriesshire, he was apprenticed into his father's stone- masonryand quarrying business. He developed a keen amateur interest in geology and botanywhich eventually led to his formal education at the University of Edinburgh, studying under Archibald Geikieand Thomas Henry Huxley.
Royal Geographical Society
On graduating in 1878, he was appointed geologist and naturalist to Alexander Keith Johnston's
Royal Geographical Societyexpedition to establish a route from Dar es Salaamto Lake Nyasaand Lake Tanganyika. Johnston perished during the trip and it was left to Thomson to take over the leadership. Thomson successfully led the expedition over 3000 miles in 14 months, collecting many specimens and making sundry observations.
In 1883, he embarked on a further Royal Geological Society expedition to explore a route from the eastern coast of Africa to the northern shores of
Lake Victoria. British Empiretraders were demanding a route that would avoid the fearsome Maasaiand the hostile Germans who were competing for trade in the area. The expedition set out a few months behind the rival German expedition of Gustav A. Fischer. The expedition was again a success demonstrating the feasibility of the route and making many important biological, geological and ethnographic observations, though Thomson's attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaroin a day failed. However, on the return journey, Thomson was gored by a buffalo and subsequently suffered from malariaand dysentery.
In 1885 Thomson was employed by the
National African Companyto forestall German influence in the vicinity of the Niger River, but returned the following year to the UK to lecture, disillusioned that there were no further opportunities for large-scale exploration in the continent. He was discontented with his life in the UK and struggled to identify new opportunities for exploration. A modest expedition to the Atlas Mountainsof Moroccowas marred by trouble with porters and local political difficulties. He spent a month in 1889 traveling in central Europe with budding author J. M. Barrie.
British South Africa Company
Cecil Rhodesemployed Thomson to explore north of the Zambeziand gain treaties and mining concessions from chiefs on behalf of his British South Africa Companywhich had been chartered by the British Government to claim the territory known as Zambezia (later Rhodesia, modern day Zimbabweand Zambia) as far north as the African Great Lakes. Though he made a sequence of important treaties on the trip, he was blocked by a smallpoxepidemic in the intervening country from reaching the ultimate goal, which was to meet Alfred Sharpeat the court of Msiri, King of Katanga, and to assist Sharpe in incorporating the mineral-rich country by treaty into Zambezia. Thomson's role was to bring supplies of cloth, gunpowder, and other gifts with which to impress Msiri. Without them, Sharpe was rebuffed, and a year later the Stairs Expedition, believing itself to be in race with another attempt by Thomson to reach Katanga, killed Msiri and took Katanga for King Leopold II of Belgium. Unknown to the Stairs Expedition, by this time Thomson had been instructed by the British government not to go. [Moloney, Joseph Augustus (1893). "With Captain Stairs to Katanga". London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company (ISBN 0955393655).]
Thomson's health deteriorated from
cystitis, schistosomiasis, and pyelo- nephritis. In 1892, he contracted pneumoniaand, seeking the right climate in which to recuperate, spent time in England, South Africa, Italy, and France. He died in London.
Works by Thomson
*"To the Central African Lakes and Back" (2 vols., 1881)
*"Through Masai Land" (1885)
* [http://www.geocities.com/olmorijo/contents.htm "Through Masai Land - A Journey of Exploration Among the Snowclad Volcanic Mountains and Strange Tribes of Eastern Equatorial Africa"]
*with E. Harris Smith "Ulu" (2 vols., 1888)
*"Travels in the Atlas and Southern Morocco" (1889)
*"Mungo Park and the Niger" (1890)
Works about Thomson
*Rotberg, R.I. (1971) "Joseph Thomson and the exploration of Africa"
*Thomson, J.B. (1896) "Joseph Thomson: African explorer"
* [http://www.penpontheritage.co.uk Penpont's Joseph Thomson Project]
* [http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.kenyalogy.com/esp/info/histo8.html&sa=X&oi=translate Google translation of kenyalogy.com article]
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