William Burchell

(1781—1863) explorer and naturalist

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(1781–1863), English artist, naturalist, and explorer of South Africa. William John Burchell conducted a series of exploratory journeys in South Africa from 1811 to 1815. He was the quintessential Enlightenment traveler, supremely confident that his was a detached, rational, and scientific survey of nature, places, and people. Burchell was born in Fulham, London, on July 23, 1781, and was able to study botany and natural history at Kew Gardens before being appointed schoolmaster and botanist on the island of Saint Helena, where he remained from 1805 to 1810. Then, in 1810, he sailed to Cape Town and there fitted out ox wagons for a trip to the northern interior. He reached as far as Kuruman and some way beyond, learning much of the Tswana peoples there before returning southeastward to the Great Kei River area.


From The Oxford Companion to World Exploration in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: World History.

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