Keith Johnston


Artist Biography:

Keith Johnston, born in 1844, was one of the foremost cartographers of his day. His father, Alexander Keith Johnston (1804-71), was also an accomplished cartographer and a friend of the famous explorer David Livingstone. He, and his son, thus became involved in research into the geography of east and central Africa and into the controversies over the source of the Nile. Alexander was a pre-eminent cartographer in the renowned Edinburgh firm of W & A K Johnston and was highly regarded for his development of thematic atlases, the most eminent of which was the “Atlas of Natural Phenomena”, which took 10 years to complete. He was also an acknowledged leader in the field of physical geography and the great globe of the world which he produced for the famous Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851 was awarded a Gold Medal and still graces the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society in London. His son, Keith, shared his father’s ability and became the Assistant Map Curator for the Royal Geographical Society, and a Fellow at the remarkably young age of 24. However, Keith Johnston preferred to work away from the desk and undertook a number of important surveys, including a boundary review of Paraguay and the leadership of an RGS expedition to East Africa from 1868-1870, which was designed to explore a feasible trade route to the central African lakes of Nyassa and Tanganyika. In Zanzibar he met the famed “rescuer” of Livingstone, H M Stanley, but he contracted dysentery and died there in 1879.

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