John Hanning Speke

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John Hanning Speke

John Hanning Speke (born May 3, 1827 Bideford , Devon , †  September 15, 1864 at Corsham , Wiltshire ) was a British explorer of Africa , after whom Mount Speke , a mountain range in Uganda , is named.


The Speke Gulf on Lake Victoria, named after Speke, with the island of Ukerewe at the top left (German map from 1896).

John Hanning Speke met Richard Francis Burton in Aden in 1854 , who was planning an expedition to East Africa to find the sources of the Nile . Together they first traveled to Somalia , where Speke was badly wounded. The following year he took part in the Crimean War.

On June 16, 1857, Speke, led by Burton, started the expedition to East Africa to find the great lakes and the sources of the Nile. From Zanzibar they marched first to Tabora , where they arrived on November 7th. On February 13, 1858, Burton and Speke discovered Lake Tanganyika , which Burton believed to be the source of the Nile. On July 9, Burton and Speke split. Speke discovered Lake Victoria on August 3 , which he in turn viewed as the source lake of the Nile, which led to a pronounced rivalry between the two. Speke also discovered Ukerewe , the largest island on Lake Victoria at 523 km², after which it was temporarily named. On March 4, 1859, Speke and Burton reached Zanzibar. When Burton finally arrived in London, Speke, who had arrived earlier, had already published his theories there and had been commissioned with a new expedition. Burton and Speke thereupon shared a bitter hostility.

With James Augustus Grant , Speke undertook the planned expedition from Zanzibar in 1860, from which he returned to Gondokoro on the Upper Nile in 1863 and which encouraged him to have found the source of the Nile.

After Burton's return from an expedition to the Niger Delta in August 1864, he again criticized Spekes theories about the source of the Nile. On September 16, 1864, there should therefore be a hearing before the British Society for the Advancement of Science in Bath . However, Speke died on September 15 from a self-triggered shot while hunting near Corsham . To date, it is not clear whether Speke may have died by suicide.

John Hanning Speke is the founder of the Hamite theory , which attributed all cultural progress in Africa to the influence of light-skinned "Hamites" from the north and which considered the "negroid" population of Africa to be hardly culturally capable.


  • Journal of the discovery of the source of the Nile . London 1863. / The discovery of the sources of the Nile . Leipzig 1864, online .
  • The age of discovery. In: GEO , epoch No. 24.


John Hanning Speke: The discovery of the sources of the Nile, travel diary, Leipzig 1866 (Cognoscere, Vol. 3) (Edition Ost, Berlin 1995)

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