Dec 25 2008
The inspirational mid-19th Century Great Exploration of Dr. David Livingstone opened central Africa to the world and has surprising parallels with the 1960s Apollo Moon program, as well as many lessons for future human exploration and settlement of space. The top 10 lessons of Dr. David Livingstone include:
10. Generally considered the greatest and most famous of all explorers in Africa, Dr. David Livingstone (1813-1873) was a medical doctor and Christian missionary born in Scotland. His was perhaps the most unusual Great Exploration of the last 200 years because Livingstone did not go for fame, monetary gain, or national prestige. His goals were altruistic: to end the slavery trade, to be a successful missionary, and to open up central Africa commercially to the world.
Dr. Livingstone’s monumental explorations in central Africa indicate the power of a Great Exploration during a Maslow Window to stir the world. However, as great as Livingstone and all the other Great Explorations of the last 200 years are, they only hint at the extraordinary, unprecendented space activities we’re likely to experience during the next Maslow Window, starting near 2015.
9. Dr. Livingstone’s world-wide fame as a great explorer and humanitarian lives on today even in popular culture (as well as history) over 130 years after his death, and indicates the dimension of his legend. For example, a) Dr. Livingstone appears on the album cover of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, b) In TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, the fish in the background of Capt. Picard’s ready room is named Livingstone after the explorer, c) a video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System is called “Stanley and the Search for Dr. Livingstone,” d) in the 1981 movie Cannonball Run, Burt Reynolds mentions Dr. Livingstone by name, and many others.
Dr. Livingstone’s lasting fame has not been dimished by time, distance, his multi-year disappearance, or his fundamentally altruistic motivations. Indeed, this suggests that pure exploration, for exploration’s sake, is among the most attractive rationales to the global public, and may have implications for future human explorers on the Moon, near-Earth objects, and/or Mars.
8. The financial Panic of 1837 was a major contraction where 40% of the U.S. banks failed and unemployment was at record highs; it lasted 6 years until 1843. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman wrting in 1960, the Panic of 1837 “is the only depression on record comparable in severity and scope to the Great Depression of the 1930s.” Nevertheless, the mid-19th Century Livingstone Maslow Window (roughly 1847 to 1857) opened on time and featured Africa’s most famous explorer (Livingstone), the “technological jewel” of the 19th Century (the Suez Canal), as well as stunning secondary MEPs (including the Great Eastern ship); this Maslow Window’s global ebullience is perhaps best captured by the Gold Rush in the American West (1848 – 1855).
Over the last 200 years, pre-Maslow Window bank panics have not perceptibly affected any Maslow Windows, and may, in fact, have stimulated them somewhat. There were two 19th Century panics (1837 and 1893) both about one decade prior to their Maslow Windows, none in 1949 (post W.W. II) one decade before the Apollo Maslow Window, and one currently in 2008 (8 years before our expected Window). Interestingly, the New York Times (11/30/08) recently suggested that a “deep recession” may have occurred near 1776, 10 – 15 years before the Lewis & Clark Maslow Window. In any case, during the last 200 years, no financial panic has ever delayed or diminished any Great Explorations or MEPs associated with a Maslow Window. With a new U.S. presidential administration highly motivated to ameliorate the current panic, there’s every reason to expect this 200+ year pattern to continue.
7. Although not as formally organized as the elaborate Apollo astronaut training in the 1960s, Dr. Livingstone’s early field experiences over nearly a decade were excellent “training” for his future transcontinental adventures. Initially influenced to go to central Africa in 1840 by a South African missionary, he was funded by his church as he moved from village to village spreading his faith, learning the languages and customs of local peoples, curing the sick, and expanding the infrastructure. Livingstone began to explore new lands and by 1849 The Royal Geographical Society had already awarded him a monetary prize and a gold medal for his discovery of Lake Ngami in the Kalahari Desert.
There is no substitute for significant training and appropriate experience in an environment as similar to one’s future exploration arena as possible. This goes for Livingstone in Africa and future astronauts on the Moon and Mars.
6. Between 1852 and 1856 — at the height of his Maslow Window — Dr. Livingstone made his stunning exploratory 4,300 mile transcontinental journey across central Africa including his amazing discovery of Victoria Falls (which he named after Queen Victoria I). It was the “most wonderful sight I have seen in Africa,” wrote an awestruck Livingstone after he carefully and dangerously measured its height as 360 feet. As he began to explore the Zambezi River area, Livingstone became convinced that opening up legitimate trade routes along this river would remove economic rationales for the slave trade. He returned to London as a national hero, went on a lecture tour, wrote his famous book, and energetically sold his exploration, commercial, and social justice agenda to an eager public. “Livingstone’s fame was so great that (during the) ‘Farewell Livingstone Festival’ on February 13, 1858, just before the explorer’s departure for a second Zambezi expedition, 350 of England’s most prominent citizens” attended, according to Dugard (2003).
Great explorers always have maximum societal impact during their Maslow Windows. Livingstone illustrates the pattern of the last 200 years that has included such timely luminaries as Lewis & Clark, Peary, Amundsen, Neil Armstrong, and others. They all point to the anticipated 2015 Maslow Window as another pivotal opportunity for human expansion.
5. In 1858 Dr. Livingstone triumphantly returned to Africa as the official head of the government-supported “Zambezi Expedition.” However, the British government recalled the failed endeavor in 1863. Although Livingstone had perfected the “small” expedition style of moving through central Africa, he was unaccustomed to managing the much larger Zambezi exploration entourage that he found himself leading. Plus, he became ill for the first time in 1862 partly due to the accidental loss of vital anti-malarial medicine into the Zambezi River. Then, tragically his wife died while traveling with the expedition. “I cannot tell you how greatly I feel the loss,” Livingstone wrote in 1862, “it feels as if heart and strength were taken out of me — my horizon is all dark,” (Dugard, 2003). As if that were not enough, a crucial portion of the Zambezi River — which Livingstone had not previously explored — was simply commercially unnavigable. This triggered the collapse of Livingstone’s anti-slavery strategy as his worst-case scenario materialized.
Dr. Livingstone’s Zambezi expedition reminds us that accidents, unexpected events, and even loss of life are sometimes a challenging part of a Great Exploration, and explorers must be trained to expect the unexpected. For example, when an oxygen tank exploded on Apollo 13 on the way to the Moon, the astronauts lost their normal source of electricity and water, but due to superb planning, determination, and creativity, everyone survived. Livingstone-style tenacity and Apollo-style independence from Earth will be absolutely required on interplanetary spaceflights.
4. British newspapers branded Livingstone’s Zambezi expedition a “failure” although considerable science (e.g. botany, medicine, ethnography) and many geographic discoveries (e.g., discovered Lakes Ngami, Malawi, and Bangweulu, plus Victoria Falls) had been accomplished. However, the Zambezi River was unfit for commercial navigation and Livingstone’s expedition was victimized by intertribal war and slave raids. In effect, “the journey was a highly publicized bust,” (Dugard, 2003). At this low point even the great Livingstone had difficulty finding financial support to continue his African explorations.
After Dr. Livingstone’s stunning African successes, the professional and personal toll experienced by the greatest explorer of his day on the downside of his Maslow Window in 1864 is reminiscent of the Apollo program. After the stunning 1st human landing on the Moon in 1969, public support waned (except for Apollo 13) until the last 3 Apollo Moon missions (18-20) were finally canceled by President Nixon. The bottomline is: As the momentary ebullience of a Maslow Window declines, public support for Great Explorations and associated MEPs rapidly erodes.
3. Amazingly, even after the Zambezi setback, Dr. Livingstone’s celebrity was so great that he was able to attract private funding to return to Africa. But by 1871 — during his search for the “source of the Nile” — Livingstone had actually lost contact with the outside world for several years. However, international interest in Livingstone was so high that a New York newspaper sent Henry M. Stanley and an expedition of 170 men to find him. Stanley wasn’t entirely sure that Livingstone wanted to be found and it took him 8 months to do so. Then, in Ujiji village on the north shore of Lake Tanganyika, one of the all-time famous greetings took place, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
The Livingstone/Stanley story is impressive testimony of the enduring power of Dr. Livingstone’s global fame as an explorer, scientist, and humanitarian. It’s important to remember that Livingstone wasn’t an American and yet an American newspaper — reflecting their vicarious obsession with Livingstone’s adventures — sent Stanley to locate him. Few people could physically accompany Livingstone on his African explorations, but many were riveted vicariously to his adventures. The same was true of the polar explorers and the crews of Apollo, and will be for future lunar and interplanetary explorers.
2. On Christmas, 1871 Dr. Livingstone’s fever had dropped so he and Stanley decided to have a Christmas feast just like at home. Stanley had “used some very powerful arguments in favor of my going home,” but even Livingstone’s daughter Agnes admitted that, “Much as I wish you to come home, I had rather you finished your work to your satisfaction rather than return merely to gratify me.” Livingstone regarded her with pride as a “chip of the old block.” Dr. Livingstone eventually declined Stanley’s invitation to return to civilization. Fully reprovisioned, he continued his fruitless search for the source of the Nile; Livingstone died in 1873. At considerable risk to themselves, Livingstone’s African crew carried his body for 5 months to the East Africa coast where it was shipped to his burial place in Westminster Abbey, London. Also in 1873, the Vienna stock market crash in Austria began the Long Depression which spread to the United States that fall, and lasted for 6+ years.
The Panic of 1873 is a member of a class of financial panics that occur 16 – 18 years after the economic peak of a Maslow Window; they include the panics of 1819, 1873, 1929, and 1987. (The Panic of 2008 is a class of panics that preceed a Maslow Window.) The last 200 years show that any lingering ebullience and interest in Great Explorations/MEPs associated with the last Maslow Window collapse as the panic deepens.
1. Despite his failed anti-slavery Zambezi strategy and his inability to find the source of the Nile, Dr. Livingstone is widely regarded as the greatest and most famous explorer of Africa. His legacy was polished by Henry Stanley and later positive events that are traceable to Livingstone’s efforts as an explorer, educator, and missionary. For example, the curse of African slavery was finally eradicated due to the inspiration and writings of Livingstone; a month after Livingstone died, England threatened a naval blockade of Zanzibar which forced the Sultan to close its slave market forever.
While a period of european colonization did occur after his explorations, Dr. Livingstone’s name was not stricken from African streets, buildings, and towns, after independence. In fact, many Africans educated in schools established by Livingstone’s followers were leaders in national independence movements in central, eastern, and southern Africa. “Contrary to many western beliefs, Livingstone is greatly respected and admired by a large number of Africans — a sure testimony to the man who spent the majority of his life among them,” (Mackenzie, 1993).
While traveling nearly 30,000 miles over 1/3 of Africa he displayed the best of human values — sacrifice, service, curiosity — and pioneered the opening of central Africa to commerce and science.
Livingstone teaches us that exploration is a profoundly exciting activity with unlimited potential for both scientific and self-discovery. As a result of exploring the most unknown parts of the world he inspired people to care about his beliefs, even after his death. When future explorers seek to expand human civilization into the cosmos and financial and other challenges arise…
…We should — in the spirit of Dr. Livingstone — simply ask: “How much is a new planet worth?”