Gustav Nachtigal - Encyclopedia




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GUSTAV NACHTIGAL (1834-1885), German explorer in Central Africa, son of a Lutheran pastor, was born at Eichstedt in the Mark of Brandenburg, on the 23rd of February 1834. After medical study at the universities of Halle, Wiirzburg and Greifswald, he practised for a few years as a military surgeon. Finding the climate of his native country injurious to his health, he went to Algiers and Tunis, and took part, as a surgeon, in several expeditions into the interior. Commissioned by the king of Prussia to carry gifts to the sultan of Bornu in acknowledgment of kindness shown to German travellers, he set out in 1869 from Tripoli, and succeeded after two years' journeyings in accomplishing his mission. During this period he visited Tibesti and Borku, regions of the central Sahara not previously known to Europeans. From Bornu he went to Bagirmi, and, proceeding by way of Wadai and Kordofan, emerged. from darkest Africa, after having been given up for lost, at Khartum in the winter of 1874. His journey, graphically described in his Sahara and Sudan (3 vols., 1879-1889), placed the intrepid explorer in the front rank of discoverers. On the establishment of a protectorate over Tunisia by France, Nachtigal was sent thither as consul-general for the German empire, and remained there until 1884, when he was despatched by Prince Bismarck to West Africa as special commissioner, ostensibly to inquire into the condition of German commerce, but really to annex territories to the German flag. As the result of his mission Togoland and Cameroon were added to the German empire. On his return voyage he died at sea off Cape Palmas on the 20th of April 1885, and was buried at Grand Bassam.

Nachtigal's travels are summarized in Gustav Nachtigal's Reisen in der Sahara and im Sudan, by Dr Albert Frankel (Leipzig, 1887). A French translation, by J. van Vollenhoven, of that part of his work concerning Wadai, appeared in the Bull. du comite de l'Afriq. francaise for 1903 under the title of "Le Voyage de Nachtigal au Ouadai." Nachtigal died before transcribing his notes on Wadai, and they were edited in the German edition by E. Groddeck.

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