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 John Hanning Speke

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John Hanning Speke Famous memorial

Birth
Buckland Brewer, Torridge District, Devon, England
Death
15 Sep 1864 (aged 37)
Burial
Dowlish Wake, South Somerset District, Somerset, England
Plot
Vault
Memorial ID
13262340 View Source

British Explorer. He is credited with the controversial discovery of the source of the Nile River in Africa as being Lake Victoria, which he named in honor of the British Queen Victoria. Born near Bideford, Devon, England, in 1844 he was commissioned into the British army and posted to India, where he served in the Punjab region during the First Anglo-Sikh War. He spent his free time exploring the Himalayan Mountains and Mount Everest, crossing once into Tibet. In 1854 he made his first voyage to Africa, joining an expedition to present-day Somalia led by the noted explorer Sir Richard Burton. The party was attacked, and he and Burton were both severely wounded. He was captured and stabbed several times with spears before he was able to free himself and escape. He returned to England to recover and then served in the Crimean War. In 1856 he and Burton went to East Africa to find the Great Lakes, which were rumored to exist in the center of the continent. Additionally, it was hoped that the expedition would be able to locate the source of the Nile River. The journey was extremely strenuous and both men fell ill from a variety of tropical diseases. He suffered severely when he became temporarily deaf after a beetle crawled into his ear and he tried to remove it with a knife, and later went temporarily blind. After a rugged and difficult journey, the two became the first Europeans to reach Lake Tanganyika (although he was still blind at this point and could not properly see the lake). They heard of a second lake in the area, but Burton was too sick to make the trip and Speke went alone, becoming the first European to visit Lake Victoria. It was this lake that eventually proved to be the source of the Nile River. However, much of the expedition's survey equipment had been lost at this point and vital questions about the height and extent of the lake could not be determined. In early May 1859 he returned to England, before Burton, and made their trip famous in a speech to the Royal Geographical Society, in which he claimed to have discovered the source of the Nile. When Burton returned to England later that month, he was angered by Speke's precipitous announcements, believing that they violated an agreement that the two men would speak to the society together. A further rift ensued when Speke was chosen to lead a subsequent expedition instead of Burton. The following month, the two presented joint papers concerning the expedition to the Royal Geographical Society. With Scottish explorer James Augustus Grant, he left from Zanzibar in October 1860. When they reached Uganda, Grant travelled north, and he continued his journey towards the west. He reached Lake Victoria in July 1862 and then travelled on the west side around Lake Victoria without actually seeing much of it, but on the north side of the lake, he found the Nile River flowing out of it and discovered the Ripon Falls. He then sailed down the Nile and he was reunited with Grant. He then travelled to Gondokoro in Southern Sudan, where he met up with British explorer Samuel Baker, continuing to Khartoum, Sudan, from which he sent a celebrated telegram to London that read, "The Nile is settled." Burton continued to dispute Speke's claim, stating that because Speke had not followed the Nile from the place it flowed out of Lake Victoria to Gondokoro, he could not be sure they were the same river. A formal debate was planned between the two before the geographical section of the British Association in Bath, England on 18 September 1864. However Speke had died on September 15th from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 37 while shooting at Neston Park in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England. An inquest concluded that the death was accidental, a conclusion supported by his only biographer, though the idea of suicide has appealed to some. A proponent of the Hamitic hypothesis, much of his 1863 "Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile" describes the physical features of Africa's races, in whose condition he found "a strikingly existing proof of the Holy Scriptures" and are an example of scientific racism. In this hypothesis, he supposed that the Tutsi ethnic group were descendants of the biblical figure Ham, one of Noah's three sons, and had lighter skin and more "European" features than the Bantu-featured Hutu over whom they ruled. He was portrayed in four of the six episodes of the 1971 BBC television mini-series "Search for the Nile." The theatrical film "Mountains of the Moon" (1990, starring actor Iain Glen as Speke) relates the story of the Burton-Speke controversy, portrayed as having been unjustifiably incited by Speke's publisher to stimulate book sales. Mount Speke in the Ruwenzori Range, Uganda was named in his honor. A obelisk dedicated to him stands in Kensington Gardens, London.

British Explorer. He is credited with the controversial discovery of the source of the Nile River in Africa as being Lake Victoria, which he named in honor of the British Queen Victoria. Born near Bideford, Devon, England, in 1844 he was commissioned into the British army and posted to India, where he served in the Punjab region during the First Anglo-Sikh War. He spent his free time exploring the Himalayan Mountains and Mount Everest, crossing once into Tibet. In 1854 he made his first voyage to Africa, joining an expedition to present-day Somalia led by the noted explorer Sir Richard Burton. The party was attacked, and he and Burton were both severely wounded. He was captured and stabbed several times with spears before he was able to free himself and escape. He returned to England to recover and then served in the Crimean War. In 1856 he and Burton went to East Africa to find the Great Lakes, which were rumored to exist in the center of the continent. Additionally, it was hoped that the expedition would be able to locate the source of the Nile River. The journey was extremely strenuous and both men fell ill from a variety of tropical diseases. He suffered severely when he became temporarily deaf after a beetle crawled into his ear and he tried to remove it with a knife, and later went temporarily blind. After a rugged and difficult journey, the two became the first Europeans to reach Lake Tanganyika (although he was still blind at this point and could not properly see the lake). They heard of a second lake in the area, but Burton was too sick to make the trip and Speke went alone, becoming the first European to visit Lake Victoria. It was this lake that eventually proved to be the source of the Nile River. However, much of the expedition's survey equipment had been lost at this point and vital questions about the height and extent of the lake could not be determined. In early May 1859 he returned to England, before Burton, and made their trip famous in a speech to the Royal Geographical Society, in which he claimed to have discovered the source of the Nile. When Burton returned to England later that month, he was angered by Speke's precipitous announcements, believing that they violated an agreement that the two men would speak to the society together. A further rift ensued when Speke was chosen to lead a subsequent expedition instead of Burton. The following month, the two presented joint papers concerning the expedition to the Royal Geographical Society. With Scottish explorer James Augustus Grant, he left from Zanzibar in October 1860. When they reached Uganda, Grant travelled north, and he continued his journey towards the west. He reached Lake Victoria in July 1862 and then travelled on the west side around Lake Victoria without actually seeing much of it, but on the north side of the lake, he found the Nile River flowing out of it and discovered the Ripon Falls. He then sailed down the Nile and he was reunited with Grant. He then travelled to Gondokoro in Southern Sudan, where he met up with British explorer Samuel Baker, continuing to Khartoum, Sudan, from which he sent a celebrated telegram to London that read, "The Nile is settled." Burton continued to dispute Speke's claim, stating that because Speke had not followed the Nile from the place it flowed out of Lake Victoria to Gondokoro, he could not be sure they were the same river. A formal debate was planned between the two before the geographical section of the British Association in Bath, England on 18 September 1864. However Speke had died on September 15th from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 37 while shooting at Neston Park in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England. An inquest concluded that the death was accidental, a conclusion supported by his only biographer, though the idea of suicide has appealed to some. A proponent of the Hamitic hypothesis, much of his 1863 "Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile" describes the physical features of Africa's races, in whose condition he found "a strikingly existing proof of the Holy Scriptures" and are an example of scientific racism. In this hypothesis, he supposed that the Tutsi ethnic group were descendants of the biblical figure Ham, one of Noah's three sons, and had lighter skin and more "European" features than the Bantu-featured Hutu over whom they ruled. He was portrayed in four of the six episodes of the 1971 BBC television mini-series "Search for the Nile." The theatrical film "Mountains of the Moon" (1990, starring actor Iain Glen as Speke) relates the story of the Burton-Speke controversy, portrayed as having been unjustifiably incited by Speke's publisher to stimulate book sales. Mount Speke in the Ruwenzori Range, Uganda was named in his honor. A obelisk dedicated to him stands in Kensington Gardens, London.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Mark McManus
  • Added: 7 Feb 2006
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 13262340
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13262340/john-hanning-speke: accessed ), memorial page for John Hanning Speke (4 May 1827–15 Sep 1864), Find a Grave Memorial ID 13262340, citing St. Andrew Churchyard, Dowlish Wake, South Somerset District, Somerset, England; Maintained by Find a Grave .