Paul Belloni Du Chaillu - Encyclopedia

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PAUL BELLONI DU CHAILLU (1835-1903), traveller and anthropologist, was born either at Paris or at New Orleans (accounts conflict) on the 31st of July 1835. In his youth he accompanied his father, an African trader in the employment of a Parisian firm, to the west coast of Africa. Here, at a station on the Gabun, the boy received some education from missionaries, and acquired an interest in and knowledge of the country, its natural history, and its natives, which guided him to his subsequent career. In 1852 he exhibited this knowledge in the New York press, and was sent in 1855 by the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia on an African expedition. From 1855 to 1859 he regularly explored the regions of West Africa in the neighbourhood of the equator, gaining considerable knowledge of the delta of the Ogowe river and the estuary of the Gabun. During his travels he saw numbers of the great anthropoid apes called the gorilla (possibly the great ape described by Carthaginian navigators), then known to scientists only by a few skeletons. A subsequent expedition, from 1863 to 1865, enabled him to confirm the accounts given by the ancients of a pygmy people inhabiting the African forests. Narratives of both expeditions were published, in 1861 and 1867 respectively, under the titles Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa, with Accounts of the Manners and Customs of the People, and of the Chace of the Gorilla, Crocodile, and other Animals; and A Journey to Ashango-land, and further penetration into Equatorial Africa. The first work excited much controversy on the score of its veracity, but subsequent investigation proved the correctness of du Chaillu's statements as to the facts of natural history; though possibly some of the adventures he described as happening to himself were reproductions of the hunting stories of natives (see Proc. Zool. Soc. vol. i., 1905, p. 66). The map accompanying Ashango-land was of unique value, but the explorer's photographs and collections were lost when he was forced to flee from the hostility of the natives. After some years' residence in America, during which he wrote several books for the young founded upon his African adventures, du Chaillu turned his attention to northern Europe, and published in 1881 The Land of the Midnight Sun, in 1889 The Viking Age, and in 1900 The Land of the Long Night. He died at St Petersburg on the 29th of April 1903.

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