Ernest François Cambier

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Monument in Schaarbeek

Ernest François Cambier (born June 21, 1844 in Ath , Belgium , † July 22, 1909 in Watermael-Boitsfort ) was a Belgian traveler to Africa and initiated the construction of the first railway in the Congo .


Cambier initially embarked on a military career and became an adjutant on the General Staff and responsible for the topographical services of the army .

In 1877 he accompanied the first expedition of the International Africa Society under Captain Crespel as an astronomer and geographer . When Crespel died on January 24, 1878, Cambier took over the leadership of the expedition. On July 4th, accompanied by Belgian officers Wautier and Dutrieux, he set out from Bagamoyo to the interior of the country and with great difficulty reached Unjamwesi and on to Unjamjembe , where Wautier died of diphtheria on September 19, 1878 . Dutrieux then returned to Europe. Cambier traveled on to Karema on the east bank of Lake Tanganyika , where in September 1879 he founded the first scientific station and refuge of the International African Association. To do this, he bought around 5000 acres (20 km²) of land from the local princes. This area can be considered the birthplace of the Belgian Congo . Between 1880 and 1881 he was in charge of this station. It was from here that operations against the Arab slave trade were later undertaken.

He realized early on that without a railroad to bypass the cataracts of the Congo River , the economic development of the Congo Basin would promise little profit. Belgium took on this task. The first estimates for the cost of the railway were based on Cambier's topographical surveys and were 25 million Belgian francs. The actual costs ended up being more than twice as much. The first railway line connected Matadi and the Stanley Pool .

In 1882 he returned to Europe and settled in Schaarbaek. Ernest François Cambier died here on July 23, 1909.


  • Reports on the marches de la première expédition de l'Association internationale . (1879).


  • Alfred Preudhomme de Borre: Description d'une nouvelle espèce de Buprestide du genre Sternocera. Rapportée de l'Afrique Centrale par M. le Capitaine Cambier . Weissenbruch, Brussels 1881 (special dr. From Comptes Rendus de la Société Entomologique de Belgique , 1881).
  • Alphonse J. Wauters: Le capitaine Cambier et la première expédition de l'Association Internationale Africaine . Muquardt, Brussels 1880 (special printer from Revue de Belgique , 1880).
  • Ernest Cambier Archives , Royal Museum for Central Africa

Individual evidence

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