Visit Peebles - The Royal Burgh

Mungo Park ( 1771 – 1806 )

African explorer. He was credited as being the first Westerner to encounter the central portion of the Niger River.

Mungo Park was born in Selkirk on a tenant farm which his father rented from the Duke of Buccleuch. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh, studying medicine, botany and natural history. In 1788 he and Sir Joseph Banks founded the London Linnean Society (the Linnean Society of London is the world's premier society for the study and dissemination of taxonomy and natural history).

In January 1793, Park completed his medical education by passing an oral examination at the Royal College of Surgeons of England in London. Later that year he set sail to Benkulen in Sumatra.

In 1794 Park offered his services to the African Association, then looking for a successor to Major Daniel Houghton, who had been sent in 1790 to discover the course of the Niger River and had died in the Sahara.

Supported by Sir Joseph Banks, Park was selected.

On 21 June 1795, he reached the Gambia River and ascended it 200 miles to a British trading station named Pisania. On 2 December, accompanied by two local guides, he started for the unknown interior.

He returned to Scotland in 1797 and his detailed narrative appeared in 1799 (Travels in the Interior of Africa).

His book was a success because it detailed what he observed, what he survived, and the people he encountered. His honest descriptions set a standard for future travel writers to follow.

On October 1801 Park moved to Peebles, where he practiced as a physician. Park moved back to Selkirkshire in 1804 and early the following year set off on his second expedition to Africa.