Person NamePark; Mungo (1771-1806); explorer and surgeon
Epithetexplorer and surgeon
ActivityMungo Park, surgeon and African explorer, was born in Foulshiels, in the parish of Selkirk, on 10 September 1771. The son of a farmer, Park was educated at home and at Selkirk Grammar School and studied medicine and botanical science at Edinburgh University 1789-1791. He journeyed to London in search of employment and secured a position as a medical officer with the East India Company early in 1792. While in the East Indies in 1792-1793 he collected samples of rare plants, with which, on his return to London, he impressed Sir Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society. Assisted by Banks's patronage, Park was sponsored by the African Association to undertake a journey of exploration to West Africa. He travelled through Africa in 1795-1797, seeking to trace the course of the Niger. Unlike Maj. Houghton, the Association's previous appointee, Park managed to return to London. He set about writing an account of his travels for publication, then married in 1799 and returned to Foulshiels, where he remained for two years. He took up medical practice in Peebles in 1801 and during this period back in the Borders he became acquainted with Adam Ferguson, Dugald Stewart, and Walter Scott. In 1804 Park was approached by the government, which wanted to send and expedition to trace the Niger to its mouth, and in so doing learn things of use to British commercial interests. He was keen to return to Africa, and set sail at the end of January 1805. Nothing was heard from Park after 17 November of that year, and it would seem that he and his surviving companions drowned in the Niger at some time in 1806, following an attack on his party. Park, in the course of two expeditions, succeeded in mapping large areas of the interior of Africa for the first time and in determining much of the course of the river Niger. His journals of his expeditions were published in 1799 and 1816.
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