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Sir Richard Francis Burton: English Explorer

Sir Richard Francis Burton (March 19, 1821 - Oct. 20, 1890) was an English explorer, linguist, author, and soldier.

In 1853, Burton traveled to Cairo, Suez, and the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. Burton made an 1854 journey to the forbidden East African city of Harar (Harer). He was disguised as an Arab pilgrim and spoke excellent Arabic. (Europeans were not allowed in Arabian holy cities; they were executed if they were caught.)

In 1855, Burton and three companions (including John Hanning Speke and two other officers of the British East India Company) began an unsuccessful trip in search of the source of the White Nile; one member of the expedition was killed in an attack by Africans, and Speke and Burton were injured.

After a stint as a soldier in the Crimean War, Burton returned to Africa (1857-58) with Speke in order to renew their search. After much hardship, they made it to Lake Tanganyika (they were the first Europeans to see it). Speke continued on to the lake that Speke later named Lake Victoria, the biggest lake in Africa (Burton was too ill, suffering from malaria). Speke realized (correctly) that Lake Victoria was the White Nile's source, but Burton did not agree - their long friendship ended over this disagreement.

Burton was appointed consul in Trieste, Austria-Hungary (now a part of Italy), in 1872. In Trieste, he wrote and translated extensively. Burton is well-known for his translation of the 16 volumes of "The Tales of the Arabian Nights" and other Eastern books. He also wrote 43 volumes about his trips. Burton was knighted by Queen Victoria in February, 1886 . He died on Oct. 20, 1890, in Trieste.

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