Mungo Park

1771 - 1806

Mungo Park
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Mungo Park

Explorer. Park was born at Foulshiels, near Selkirk (Scottish Borders), on a farm rented from Henry, the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch (1746 - 1819). He was educated at the Grammar School in Selkirk, thereafter becoming an apprentice surgeon and going on to read medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He moved to London in search of employment and secured a position as Assistant-Surgeon on an East India Company ship in 1792. In this role Park was able to make scientific observations and collect examples of the flora and fauna during a trip to Sumatra. He reported several new species in a paper he gave to the Linnaean Society on his return to London (1794).

On the recommendation of the notable English scientist Sir Joseph Banks, Park was now commissioned by the African Association to explore the course of the River Niger. During two expeditions to West Africa (in 1795 and 1805) he mapped large areas of the interior for the first time. His first expedition determined that the Niger flowed from west to east and his diary was published as Travels in the Interior of Africa (1799). He set off on a second expedition in 1805 intending to find the outflow of the Niger but, after following the course of the river for some distance, he was killed by natives near Boussa having failed in his quest. News of his death took several years to be confirmed, but his papers were eventually recovered and published as The Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa (1815).

A statue to his memory stands in the centre of Selkirk and the Mungo Park Medal is presented annually by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

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