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 John Hanning Speke

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John Hanning Speke

  • Birth 4 May 1827 Clayhanger, Mid Devon District, Devon, England
  • Death 15 Sep 1864 Marlborough, Wiltshire Unitary Authority, Wiltshire, England
  • Cenotaph Kensington, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Greater London, England
  • GPS
  • Memorial ID 38610086

British Explorer. Born in Bideford, Devon county, England, in 1827, he was commissioned in the British Indian Army in 1844. During his service in the Punjab, he traveled extensively in the Himalayas and Tibet. In April 1855, he was chosen by Sir Richard Francis Burton to replace a member of his expedition force who had fallen ill. During the mid to late 50's, he participated in several expeditions with Burton. In 1857 to 1858, they explored East Africa with the intention of locating the source of the Nile River. On July 30, 1858, Speke, on his own, located Lake Tanganyika, which he named Lake Victoria in honor of the Queen. He is credited with being the first European explorer to discover a source of the Nile River. He also supplied information to Samuel Baker and Florence von Sass which aided them in the discovery of Lake Albert as another source of the Nile River. With Captain James Grant, he returned to East Africa in 1860 to trace the route of the river and map the area. On July 28, 1862, he found the river's exit from the lake, naming it Ripon Falls. He and Burton disagreed about the lake being a source of the river and were scheduled to publicly debate the matter on September 15, 1864. Speke, however, died that day in a hunting accident near Corsham, Wiltshire county, England. As he died from a gunshot wound from his own gun and he was an expert huntsman, there has been speculation that it was suicide instead of an accident. In 1868 his journal was published as "Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile" and was reprinted as recently as September 1997. Mount Speke in the Ruwenzori Range, Uganda, was named in his honor.

Bio by: J.Sullivan


On monument:
In Memory Of
Victoria Nyanza and the Nile
On plaque:
John Hanning Speke - Explorer
Speke was the first European, while on an expedition with Richard Burton to East Africa in 1858, to discover Lake Victoria. On a subsequent journey with James Grant in 1862, he confirmed its northern outlet as the source of the Nile.
This memorial was sponsored by Sir Roderick Murchison, President of the Royal Geographical Society. The cost was met by public subscription.
It was designed by Philip Hardwick, R.A. It is constructed from red granite and was quarried and made in Aberdeen, Scotland.
The memorial was erected in 1866. Speke had died two years earlier, killed in a shooting accident by his own gun immediately before a debate with Burton about the source of the Nile.
This plaque was erected in 1995 by The Friends of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Gravesite Details He is buried at Saint Andrew at Dowlish Wake in Ilminster, Somerset, England. This memorial is for the cenotaph at Kensington Gardens in Greater London.





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: J.Sullivan
  • Added: 21 Jun 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 38610086
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Hanning Speke (4 May 1827–15 Sep 1864), Find A Grave Memorial no. 38610086, citing Kensington Gardens, Kensington, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .