John Kirk (explorer)

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John Kirk

Sir John Kirk, GCMG, KCB, FRS (1832 – 1922) was a Scottish physician, naturalist, companion to explorer Dr David Livingstone, and British administrator in Zanzibar, where he was instrumental in ending the slave trade in that country.

Early life and Education[edit]

He was born on 19 December 1832 in Barry, Angus, near Arbroath, Scotland, and earned his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh.

Family[edit]

Kirk’s daughter, Helen, married Major-General Henry Brooke Hagstromer Wright CB CMG, the brother of the famous bacteriologist and immunologist, Sir Almroth Edward Wright and of Sir Charles Theodore Hagberg Wright, Secretary and Librarian of London Library. Kirk’s son Colonel John William Carnegie Kirk was author of A British Garden Flora. The engineer, Alexander Carnegie Kirk, was John Kirk's elder brother.

Career[edit]

Explorer[edit]

Dr Livingstone's ship the Ma Robert, photographed on the Zambesi at Lupata by John Kirk

From 1858 to 1864 Kirk accompanied the explorer Dr David Livingstone on the Second Zambezi Expedition as a botanist[1][2] and experienced his work to end the East African slave trade. He found Livingstone an inept leader and in 1862 wrote I can come to no other conclusion than that Dr. Livingstone is out of his mind and a most unsafe leader".[3]

In 1866 Livingstone’s began his next and final expedition, to find the source of the Nile, from Zanzibar. From Livingstone’s subsequent correspondence during the expedition it seems that Kirk remained in Zanzibar and did not continue with the rest of the party.[4] After Livingstone’s death in 1873, Kirk pledged to continue his work to end the East African slave trade.

Diplomat[edit]

From his appointment in 1865 the British Consul in Zanzibar, Henry Adrian Churchill worked on the abolition of the slave trade on the island, however his heavy workload and the adverse climate took a toll on his health in 1869 and Kirk, who was his physician and Vice Consul, advised him to leave for London for the sake of his health. Churchill left in December 1870 leaving Kirk to undertake his duties as acting Consul.[5]

Kirk continued Churchill’s work on the slave trade and in June 1873 he received simultaneous contradictory instructions from London on the Zanzibar slave trade, one to issue an ultimatum to Sultan Bargash, under threat of blockade that the slave trade should be stopped and the slave market closed, and the other not to enforce a blockade which might be taken as an act of war pushing Zanzibar towards French protection. Kirk only showed the first instruction to Barghash, who capitulated within two weeks.[6]

In August 1873 he was appointed British Consul in Zanzibar[7] and in 1875 was also appointed Consul in the Comoro Islands,[8] and in 1881 was appointed Consul general in Zanzibar.[9] For years he negotiated with Sultan Barghash, gaining his confidence and promising to help enrich the East African domain through legitimate commerce. By 1885 the region was larger and more profitable.

He was British Minister Plenipotentiary at the 1890 Slave Act Conference in Brussels.[10][11]

Other interests[edit]

Photography[edit]

Kirk photographed many scenes and people during his travels in East Africa. Examples include Hamed bin Muhammed, slave and ivory trader, and Female retainers of Swahili household in gala dress, and a panoramic view of Zanzibar.

Botany[edit]

Ochna kirkii

He was a keen botanist throughout his life and published many papers from his findings in East Africa. He was highly regarded by successive directors of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: William Hooker, Joseph Dalton Hooker and William Turner Thiselton-Dyer.

He introduced a very distinct and pretty species of orchid to the United Kingdom, subsequently named Angaecum Scottianum.[12]

Eponyms[edit]

The Gossypioides kirkii, a new species of cotton from East Tropical Africa[13] and the Ochna kirkii evergreen shrub were named after him.

Zoology[edit]

Kirk's red colobus of Zanzibar, Procolobus kirkii, taken at Jozani Forest, Zanzibar, Tanzania.

He studied the wildlife in East Africa and published many papers. He collected many birds from Zanzibar and East Africa.[14] In 1892 he was credited with the third largest elephant horn among animal trophy hunters.[15]

Eponyms[edit]

According to sources,[16] Kirk first drew zoologists' attention to the Zanzibar red colobus,[17] which is also commonly known as Kirk's red colobus. This species, Procolobus kirkii, which is endemic to Zanzibar, is named after him.

Also, a species of African lizard, Agama kirkii, is named in his honour,[18] as is a species of African amphibian, Kirk's caecilian (Scolecomorphus kirkii).[19]

Awards and Decorations[edit]

Death[edit]

He died on 15 January 1922 aged 89, and was buried in St. Nicholas' churchyard in Sevenoaks, Kent, England.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Account of the Zambezi District, in South Africa, with a Notice of Its Vegetable and Other Products', Transactions of the Botanical Society (1864), 8, 197–202....
  • 'Ascent of the Rovuma', Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London (1864–1865), 9, 284–8.
  • 'Dimorphism in the Flowers of Monochoria Vaginalis', Journal of the Linnean Society: Botany (1865), 8, 147.
  • 'Extracts of a Letter of Dr. Kirk to Alex Kirk, Esq., Relating to the Livingstone Expedition', Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1859), 185–6.
  • 'Hints to Travellers – Extracts from a Letter from John Kirk', Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1864), 34, 290–2.
  • 'Letter Dated 28 February Replying to Dr. Peters', Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1865), 227.
  • 'Letter from Dr. John Kirk (of the Livingstone Expedition), Dated H.M Ship Pioneer, River Shire, East Africa, 14 December 1861.' Transactions of the Botanical Society (1862), 7, 389–92.
  • 'Letter from Dr. John Kirk, Physician and Naturalists to the Livingstone Expedition, Relative to the Country near Lake Shirwa, in Africa', Transactions of the Botanical Society (1859), 6, 317–21, plate VII.
  • 'Letter from John Kirk to Professor Balfour', Transactions of the Botanical Society (1864), 8, 110–1.
  • 'List of Mammalia Met with in Zambesia, East Tropical Africa', Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London (1864), 649–60.
  • 'Notes on the Gradient of the Zambesi, on the Level of Lake Nyassa, on the Murchison Rapids, and on Lake Shirwa', Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1865), 35, 167–9.
  • 'Notes on Two Expeditions up the River Rovuma, East Africa', Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1865), 35, 154–67.
  • 'On a Few Fossil Bones from the Alluvial Strata of the Zambesi Delta', Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (1864), 34, 199–201.
  • 'On a New Dye-Wood of the Genus Cudranea, from Tropical Africa', Journal of the Linnean Society: Botany (1867), 9, 229–30.
  • 'On a New Genus of Liliaceæ from East Tropical Africa', Transactions of the Linnean Society (1864), 24, 497–9.
  • 'On a New Harbour Opposite Zanzibar', Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London (1866–1867), 11, 35–6.
  • 'On Musa Livingstoniana, a New Banana from Tropical Africa', Journal of the Linnean Society: Botany (1867), 9, 128.
  • 'On the "Tsetse" Fly of Tropical Africa (Glossina Morsitans, Westwood).' Journal of the Linnean Society: Zoology (1865), 8, 149–56.
  • 'On the Birds of the Zambezi Region of Eastern Tropical Africa', Ibis (1864), 6, 307–39.
  • 'On the Palms of East Tropical Africa', Journal of the Linnean Society: Botany (1867), 9, 230–5.
  • 'Report on the Natural Products and Capabilities of the Shire and Lower Zambesi Valleys', Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London (1861–1862), 6, 25–32.
  • 'Report by Sir John Kirk on the Disturbances at Brass' (Great Britain: Colonial Office, 1896)
  • The last journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa, from 1865 to his death, David Livingstone and Horace Waller. John Murray, 1874

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Zambezi Expedition 1859-1864 Royal Geographical Society
  2. ^ Livingstone’s Zambezi Expedition
  3. ^ Wright, Ed (2008). Lost Explorers. Murdock Books. ISBN 978-1-74196-139-3. 
  4. ^ "The last journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa, from 1865 to his death", David Livingstone and Horace Waller. John Murray, 1874
  5. ^ Further Papers respecting the Slave Trade on the East Coast of Africa and the System Pursued for its Suppression pp 31,57,59,60
  6. ^ Christopher Lloyd, The Navy and the Slave Trade: The Suppression of the African Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century, 1968, pp 264-268
  7. ^ The London Gazette 1 August 1873
  8. ^ The London Gazette, 24 September 1875
  9. ^ The London Gazette, 30 January 1880
  10. ^ The London Gazette, 24 May 1892
  11. ^ The London Gazette, 22 July 1890
  12. ^ The orchid-grower's manual : containing descriptions of the best species and varieties of orchidaceous plants. Benjamin Samuel Williams, Victoria and Paradise Nurseries. 1885, p119
  13. ^ The Gardeners Chronicle. 24 December 1881, p822
  14. ^ The birds of Africa, comprising all the species which occur in the Ethiopian Region G E Shelley, London 1905
  15. ^ Horn measurements and weights of the great game of the world: being a record for the use of sportsmen and naturalists Roland Ward, 1892
  16. ^ Kirk's red colobus, Procolobus kirkii
  17. ^ Inventory Acc.942 Papers of Sir John Kirk GCMB KCB and Lady Kirk née Helen Cooke. National Library of Scotland: Manuscripts Division.
  18. ^ Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Kirk", p. 142).
  19. ^ Bo Beolens; Michael Watkins; Michael Grayson (22 April 2013). The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians. Pelagic Publishing. p. 186. ISBN 978-1-907807-42-8. 
  20. ^ IPNI.  J.Kirk. 
  21. ^ "List of Past Gold Medal Winners" (PDF). Royal Geographical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Anonymous 1908 Ibis Jubilee Supplement
  • Foskett, Reginald, ed. 1965. The Zambesi Journal and Letters of Dr. John Kirk, 1858–63. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd.
  • Martelli, George. 1970. Livingstone's River: A History of the Zambezi Expedition, 1858–1864. London: Chatto & Windus.
  • Liebowitz, Daniel. 1999. The Physician and the Slave Trade: John kirk, the Livingstone Expeditions, and the Crusade against Slavery in East Africa. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.
  • Ferguson, Niall. 2003. Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World. London: Penguin Books. pp. 156–8, 236–7, 239.
  • Dritsas, Lawrence. 2005. From Lake Nyassa to Philadelphia: A Geography of the Zambesi Expedition, 1858–64. British Journal for the History of Science 38, no. 1: 35–52.
  • Hazell, Alastair. 2012. The Last Slave Market: Dr John Kirk and the Struggle to End the East African Slave Trade. London: Constable

External links[edit]