Leader: The good doctor

Dr Livingstone in 1860. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On 19 March 1813, David Livingstone was born into poverty in Blantyre, near Glasgow. As Michael Barrett writes on page 24, Scotland’s progressive higher education system and Livingstone’s early passion for science enabled him to become the leading explorer-scientist of his age.

His missions to Africa opened the way for vital research into the diseases ravaging the continent and, though fuelled by missionary zeal, his attitude to the people he met was far more enlightened than that of the colonisers who followed him. Ultimately, he sacrificed his life in his quest. Two hundred years after his birth, we should celebrate not only his achievements but also the mind of a man fired by curiosity and a burning sense of justice. He was, in the words of the former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, the first African freedom fighter.