Image of Samuel White Baker


Lifetime: 1821 - 1893 Passed: ≈ 130 years ago


Explorer, Writer



Samuel White Baker

Sir Samuel White Baker, KCB, FRS, FRGS (8 June 1821 – 30 December 1893) was an English explorer, officer, naturalist, big game hunter, engineer, writer and abolitionist. He also held the titles of Pasha and Major-General in the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. He served as the Governor-General of the Equatorial Nile Basin (today's South Sudan and Northern Uganda) between April 1869 and August 1873, which he established as the Province of Equatoria. He is mostly remembered as the first European to visit Lake Albert, as an explorer of the Nile and interior of central Africa, and for his exploits as a big game hunter in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Baker wrote a considerable number of books and published articles. He was a friend of King Edward VII, who as Prince of Wales, visited Baker with Queen Alexandra in Egypt. Other friendships were with explorers Henry Morton Stanley, Roderick Murchison, John H. Speke and James A. Grant, with the ruler of Egypt Pasha Ismail The Magnificent, Major-General Charles George Gordon and Maharaja Duleep Singh.

Samuel White Baker was born on 8 June 1821 in London, as the offspring of a wealthy commercial family. His father, Samuel Baker Sr., was a sugar merchant, banker and ship owner from Thorngrove, Worcestershire with mercantile ties in the West Indies. His younger brother, Col. Valentine Baker, known as "Baker Pasha", was initially a British hero of the African Cape Colony, the Crimean War, Ceylon and the Balkans, later dishonoured by a civilian scandal. Valentine had successfully sought fame in the Ottoman Empire, notably the Russian-Turkish War in the Caucasus and the War of Sudan from Egypt. Samuel's other siblings were: James, John, Mary "Min" (later Cawston), Ellen (later Hopkinson) and Anna Eliza Baker (later Bourne).

He published his narrative of the central African expedition under the title of Ismailia (1874). Cyprus as I saw it in 1879 was the result of a visit to that island. He spent several winters in Egypt, and travelled in India, the Rocky Mountains and Japan in search of big game, publishing in 1890 Wild Beasts and their Ways.

He kept up a correspondence with men of all shades of opinion upon Egyptian affairs, strongly opposing the abandonment of the Sudan by the British Empire and subsequently urging its reconquest. Next to these, questions of maritime defence and strategy chiefly attracted him in his later years.

In November 1874 he purchased the Sandford Orleigh estate in Newton Abbot, Devon, England, where he also died after a heart attack, at the age of 72, on 30 December 1893. He was cremated and his ashes buried in the Baker family vault at Grimley Saint Bartholomew Churchyard in Grimley, Worcestershire.

Books by Samuel White Baker

In the Heart of Africa Cover image

In the Heart of Africa

Nature Adventure Expedition Travelling Geography Discovery

A wonderfully readable condensation of two of Baker's earlier, longer works recounting his self-sponsored expeditions into the Dark Continent to discover the sources of the Nile: The Albert N'Yanza, Great Basin Of The Nile (1866) and The Nile Tributa...