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Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904)

Henry Morton Stanley, journalist and explorer, was born John Rowlands in Denbigh, North Wales, in 1841. His father died when he was two years old, and his grandfather raised him until the age of five. Soon after he was sent to St. Asaph workhouse, where he remained until the age of 15. After completing an elementary education, he worked as a student teacher in a National School, before departing to the United States in 1859, aged 18, in search of a new life. He befriended a businessman named Henry Stanley, whose name he adopted as his own. Stanley served in the American Civil War, for both sides. He later joined the Navy, but deserted, and began a career as a journalist.

In 1867, he became one of the New York Herald’s overseas correspondents. Two years later, he was commissioned by the newspaper company to find the explorer, David Livingstone, whose specific whereabouts in Africa were unknown. The expedition was well-funded, and Stanley travelled to Zanzibar in March 1871, to begin his 700-mile expedition through the tropical rainforest, with over 200 porters to carry equipment and provisions. Stanley found Livingstone on 10 November 1871, near Lake Tanganyika, in Tanzania, and is believed to have greeted him with the now famous words ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’

Stanley accompanied Livingstone in exploring the region, and wrote a book about his experiences on his return How I found Livingstone: travels, adventures and discoveries in Central Africa (1869). The publication’s success brought him to the public’s attention. In 1874, Stanley resumed his exploration of Africa, with the financial support of the New York Herald and Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He traced the course of the Congo river, an output of this epic journey was the publication of Through the Dark Continent (1878).

Stanley was approached in 1878 by King Leopold II of Belgium, who was keen to develop parts of Africa, and tap into its wealth. This resulted in Stanley’s return to Africa, to the region of the lower Congo where, with King Leopold’s support, new roads were opened. Stanley’s work there led to the creation of the Congo Free State, which was owned privately by King Leopold.

On his return to Europe, Stanley married Welsh artist Dorothy Tennant in 1890. He became Member of Parliament for Lambeth North, London in 1895, remaining in the post until 1900. He was knighted in 1899, in recognition of his service to the British Empire in Africa.

Thomas Pennant (1726 -1798)

Thomas Pennant, naturalist, antiquary and traveller, was born into a Welsh gentry family of Whitford, Flintshire. He received his early education at Wrexham Grammar School, then moved in 1840 to Thomas Croft’s School in Fulham, London. At the age of 18, he began studying at Queen’s College, Oxford, but left without taking a degree. During a tour of Cornwall in 1746-1747, he met the antiquary and naturalist William Borlase. He reactivated Pennant’s interest in minerals and fossils, and spurred Pennant on to further scientific study during the 1750s.

After leaving University, Pennant travelled widely in Britain and Europe. He completed thorough written descriptions of his journeys, and his A Tour in Wales (1778-1783) is regarded as being one of the finest works in Welsh literature after 1770. He employed artist Moses Griffith who provided the majority of illustrations from his various publications. John Ingleby of Halkin was also used extensively, mainly for his townscapes and small vignettes. As a patron, Pennant purchased works by well-known topographical artists.

His extensive knowledge in zoology manifested itself in the publication of several works including British Zoology (1761-1777) and Arctic Zoology (1785-1787). He received many honours and marks of distinction during his lifetime including Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (1754), Fellow of the Royal Society (1767), and an honorary degree from Oxford University (1771), among others. His well-known autobiography The Literary Life was published in 1793, and is a rich source of information on the famous Welsh intellectual.


  • BBC website, ‘Henry Stanley (1841-1904)
  • William Llewelyn Davies, ‘Stanley, Sir Henry Morton, formerly Rowlands, John (1841-1904), Welsh Biography Online, National Library of Wales, 1959; online edn, 2007
  • Hall, Richard, 1974. Stanley : an adventurer explored. London: Collins, 1974
  • Charles W. J. Withers, ‘Pennant, Thomas (1726–1798)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2007
  • Ellis Davies, ‘Pennant, Thomas (1726-1798)’, Welsh Biography Online, National Library of Wales, 1959; online edn, 2007