Samuel Baker

Infobox Military Person
name = Sir Samuel White Baker
lived = (8 June 1821 - 30 December 1893)
placeofbirth = flagicon|EnglandLondon, England
placeofdeath = flagicon|England His Sandford Orleigh Estate in Newton Abott, Devonshire, England. Buried: Brompton Cemetery, London.

caption = Sir Samuel White Baker
nickname = The White Pasha
allegiance = flagicon|United Kingdom British Empire, flagicon|Ottoman Empire Ottoman Empire's Egypt.
serviceyears =
rank = Explorer, British Governor-General. Also Pasha, Major-General of Ottoman Empire.
commands = Ottoman-Egyptian Campaign in Sudan, 1869
unit = The Ottoman-Egyptian Expeditionary Corp (some 1700 strong)
battles = Various on Upper Nile
awards = Fellow of the Royal Society, Gold Medal and Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, Grande Medaille d'Or de la Société de Géographie de Paris. Governor-General of Equatoria (1869-1873). President of the Devonshire Association (1878).
relations = Lady Florence (Mary Barbara) White Baker, wife.
laterwork = African and Asian big game hunter, explorer, writer, Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society

Sir Samuel White Baker, KCB, FRS, FRGS (b. 8 June 1821 - † 30 December, 1893) was a British 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 (today's Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda) between Apr. 1869 - Aug. 1873, which he established as the Province of Equatoria. He is mostly remembered as the discoverer of Lake Albert, as 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. Also a prolific writer, Sir Samuel White Baker left behind a considerable number of books and published articles. He was a close friend of King Edward, whom, while Prince of Wales, visited Baker with Queen Alexandra in Egypt. Other remarkable friendships were with explorers Henry Morton Stanley, Roderick Murchison, John H. Speke and James A. Grant, with ruler of Egypt Pasha Ismail The Magnificent, Major-General Charles George Gordon and Maharaja Duleep Singh.

Queen Victoria, although she was generally fond of Sir Samuel White Baker and followed his progress, avoided his company, biased by the uncommon way he acquired his spouse and their long lasting unmarried status, as well because of his brother's, Col. Valentine Baker, dishonorable discharge, assault scandal and lawsuit. In the end, Lady Baker became not only accepted but quite a favourite company of the British aristocracy and Sir Samuel's honor was very little frowned upon his brother's deeds, simply because his own achievements were so remarkable.

Family and early biography

Sir Samuel White Baker was born on June 8, 1821 in Middlesex, London as the offspring of a wealthy commercial family. His father, Samuel Baker Sr., was a sugar merchant, banker and ship owner from Thorngrove, Worchestershire with mercantile ties in the West Indies (Caribbean). His younger brother, Col. Valentine Baker (1827-1828), known as Baker Pasha, was innitialy a British hero of African Cape Colony, Crimean War, Ceylon and Balkans, later dishonored by a civilian scandal, he succesfuly sought fame in the Ottoman Empire, notably Russian-Turkish War in Caucasus and the War of Sudan from Egypt. His other siblings were: James, John, Mary "Min" and Ann Baker. [To The Heart Of The Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa, by Pat Shipman]

The young Samuel Baker was educated at a private school at Rottingdean, at the College School, Gloucester (1833-1835), and privately at Tottenham (1838-1840), before completing his studies in Frankfurt, Germany in 1841. He studied and graduated MA as Civil Engineer with most notably of his achievements being while commisioned at Constanta, Romania, where as Royal Superintendent, he designed and planned important railways, bridges and other structures corridoring across the Dobrogea region, from Danube to the Black Sea.

On 3 August 1843 he married his first wife, Henrietta Biddulph Martin, daughter of the rector of Maisemore, Gloucestershire. Together, they had seven children: Agnes, Charles Martin, Constance, Edith, Ethel, Jane & John Lindsay Sloan. [To The Heart Of The Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa, by Pat Shipman] His brother married Henrietta's sister and after a double wedding, the four moved for two years to Mauritius, overseing the family's plantation. After two years in Mauritius the desire for travel took them in 1846 to Ceylon, where in the following year he founded an agricultural settlement at Nuwara Eliya, a mountain health-resort.

Aided by his family, he brought emigrants from England, together with choice breeds of cattle, and before long the new settlement was a success. During his residence in Ceylon he wrote and published, as a result of many adventurous hunting expeditions, "The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon" (1853), and two years later "Eight Years' Wanderings in Ceylon" (1855). After twelve years of marriage and seven children, his wife, Henrietta, died of typhoid fever in 1855, and left Samuel a widow at the age thirty-four, who also saw his two male sons and one daughter perish early and was left with four daughters to care for, responsability he bestew on his unmarried sister.

These sad events to most people, almost inevitably seemed the end of Baker's progress, yet was only the turnaround crux point for commencing an adventure of historical proportions in geographic exploration, followed by a grand Victorian colonial career.After a journey to Constantinople and the Crimea in 1856, he found an outlet for his restless energy in Constanta, Romania by undertaking the supervision as Royal Superintendent for the construction of a railway and bridges across the Dobrogea, connecting the Danube with the Black Sea. After its completion he spent some months in a tour in south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor.

Lady Florence Baker and East Europe experience

While he was back in Europe, more precisely visiting the Duke of Atholl’s on his shooting estate in Scotland, he befriended Maharaja Duleep Singh and in 1858-1859, the two partnered for an extensive hunting trip in central Europe and the Balkans, via Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna and Budapest. On the last part of the voyage, Baker and the Maharajah, hired an wooden ill-fated boat in Budapest, which was eventually abandoned on the frozen Danube . From there adventures and faith draw the two into Vidin where, one afternoon, and simply to amuse the Maharajah, Baker went to the Viddin slave market. There, one of the most peculiar yet a wonderful leap of faith happened, when Baker instantly fell inlove with a white slave girl, firmly destined for the Ottoman Pasha of Vidin. He was outbid by the Pasha but managed to abduct the girl by bribing her attendants and run away in carriage alltogether with the perplex Maharaja Duleep Singh. The two fell hopelessly in love, and eventually she became his wife and accompanied him everywhere he journeyed. But before she became Lady Florence Baker, she was the daughter of a Szekely officer in Transylvania. She was born Aug 6 1841 in Aiud, Romania (then named Nagyenyed, part of Austro-Hungary) and was baptised Barbara Maria Szász. During the Revolutions of 1848 most family was killed, and eventually her wounded father got to a refugee camp in Viddin, Bulgaria, where she was stolen and sold to an Armenian slave merchant, who groomed her for the Harem. From then she never saw her father, ever again.Thats how at only fourteen years old, common age to marry then, Sir White Baker found her at the slave auction. After that episode the two fleed imediately to the safety of Bucharest. The new pair fell remained in Romania and Sir Baker even applied for the British Consul positio but was refused, but in Constanta, he commenced his most notable engineering achievement as the Royal Superintendent for the construction of a railway and bridges across the Dobrogea, connecting the Danube with the Black Sea. After its completion he spent some months in a tour in south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor. The new consul issued Baker's companion a British passport under the name Florence Barbara Maria Finnian, while she was British neither by birth nor marriage. She was affetionatelly called "Flooey" by Baker and nicknamed "Myadue" or "Morning Star" in Africa by natives, in esteem for her long blonde hair. A fact that raised eyebrows, spilled much ink and gossip but gained vivid sympathy in the British society was her refuse to stay home but instead followed her husband to the ends of Earth, she spoke English, German, Hungarian, Romanian and Arabic, rode camels, mules and horses and carried pistols when in the wilds, much like a unusual Victorian amazon.In March 11, 1916, she passed away, 19 years after her husband, aged 74, and like her husband she closed her eyes at their estate in Sandford Orleigh in 1916.Sadly, biased by his wife's origins and method of "aquirement", like few others, Queen Victoria never invited Samuel White Baker at the court, regardless of her sympathy for him or his merits.


In March 1861 he started upon his first tour of exploration in central Africa. This, in his own words, was undertaken "to discover the sources of the river Nile, with the hope of meeting the East African expedition under Captains Speke and Grant somewhere about the Victoria Lake." After a year spent on the Sudan-Abyssinian border, during which time he learned Arabic, explored the Atbara river and other Nile tributaries, and proved that the Nile sediment came from Abyssinia, he arrived at Khartoum, leaving that city in December 1862 to follow up the course of the White Nile.

Two months later at Gondokoro he met Speke and Grant, who, after discovering the source of the Nile, were following the river to Egypt. Their success made him fear that there was nothing left for his own expedition to accomplish; but the two explorers gave him information which enabled him, after separating from them, to achieve the discovery of Albert Nyanza (Lake Albert), of whose existence credible assurance had already been given to Speke and Grant. Baker first sighted the lake on March 14, 1864. After some time spent in the exploration of the neighbourhood, Baker demonstrated that the Nile flowed through the Albert Nyanza. He formed an exaggerated idea of the relative importance of the Albert and Victoria lake sources in contributing to the Nile flow rate. Although he believed them to be near equal, Albert Nyanza sources add only ~15% to the Nile flow at this point, the remainder provided primarily by outflow from Lake Victoria [ [ Irrigation potential in Africa:A basin approach (Chapter 6 - The Nile Basin)] ] . He started upon his return journey, and reached Khartoum, after many checks, in May 1865.

In the following October he returned to England with his wife, who had accompanied him throughout the whole of the perilous and arduous journey. In recognition of the achievements by which Baker had indissolubly linked his name with the solution of the problem of the Nile sources, the Royal Geographical Society awarded him its gold medal, and a similar distinction was bestowed on him by the Paris Geographical Society. In August 1866 he was knighted. In the same year he published "The Albert N'yanza, Great Basin of the Nile, and Explorations of the Nile Sources", and in 1867 "The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia", both books quickly going through several editions. In 1868 he published a popular story called "Cast up by the Sea". In 1869 he travelled with King Edward VII (who was the Prince of Wales at that time) through Egypt.

Despite Baker’s travels with the notorious Prince of Wales, he never received quite the same level of acclamation granted to other contemporary British explorers of Africa. Queen Victoria, in particular avoided meeting Baker because of the irregular way in which he acquired Florence, not to mention the fact that during the years of their mutual travels, the couple were not actually married. A court case involving his brother Valentine Baker (following his indecent assault of a woman on a train) also harmed Samuel Baker’s chances of wider acceptance by the Victorian establishment.

In 1869, at the request of the khedive Ismail, Baker undertook the command of a military expedition to the equatorial regions of the Nile, with the object of suppressing the slave-trade there and opening the way to commerce and civilization. Before starting from Cairo with a force of 1700 Egyptian troops - many of them discharged convicts - he was given the rank of pasha and major-general in the Ottoman army. Lady Baker, as before, accompanied him. The khedive appointed him Governor-General of the new territory of Equatoria for four years at a salary of £10,000 a year; and it was not until the expiration of that time that Baker returned to Cairo, leaving his work to be carried on by the new governor, Colonel Charles George Gordon.

He had to contend with innumerable difficulties - the blocking of the river in the Sudd, the bitter hostility of officials interested in the slave-trade, the armed opposition of the natives - but he succeeded in planting in the new territory the foundations upon which others could build up an administration.

Later life

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 traveled in India, the Rocky Mountains and Japan in search of big game, publishing in 1890 "Wild Beasts and their Ways".

He kept up an exhaustive and vigorous 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 Orley estate in Newton Abbot, Devon County, England where he also passed away after a heart atack, at the age of seventy-one, on December 30, 1893. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery in London.

Hunting authority

Samuel Baker lived as a reputed Victorian Nimrod and was a milestone in the history of modern hunting through his works and deeds. He was proud of his British heritage and was a heavy advocate and a stout promoter of the manly virtues of his nation, while he was admirably non-biased of others and a sagacious fighter against slavery of any form. An acclaimed sportsman and promoter of ethics, he likely started hunting in the Scottish Highlands; his skills were renowned, and he once gave a demonstration to friends in Scotland of how he could, with dogs, successfully hunt down a stag armed only with a knife, he did the same with the large boars in the jungles of Ceylon. He hunted all throughout his life consistently to his last years, in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. He forged his skills chasing elephants and s in Ceylon, a place where s records account him for some of world largest wild boar trophies. He hunted all throughout Africa, accompanied by his devouted wife, Lady Florence Baker, who took part in his explorations and chases much like a period's amazon.He traveled looking for sport in Asia Minor in 1860, in Scotland in 1869 for red stag, in U.S.A.'s Rocky Mountains in 1881 downing wapiti elk, grizzly and buffalo. In 1886 he was in the French Alps, looking for brown bear and many times in India in 1885 and 1887-1889 pursuing tigers and axis deer.His most memorable cynegetic exploits remained the episodes of Africa and Ceylon, where he returned again towards the end of his life in 1887. He also visited for sport in Transylvania for bears, Serbia for wild boars, Hungary for deer, Cyprus in 1879, China and Japan. His books and writtings describe animals with much emphasis on the habits and surroundings and as well a great account is given to the study and memory of hounds and houndsmanship.He left a wealth of study in science of hunting firearms and balistics and accounts as one of the world's few hunters that used the two bore rifle, world's largest gun caliber for the purpose. He described in great detail his observations of the animal world, account in which, his book "Wild Beasts And Their Ways (1890)" ranks highest.

In 1863, the German zoologist Theodor von Heuglin, named a subspecie of Roan antelope in his honor: "Hippotragus e. bakeri" or Baker’s antelope. He also left his mark in geographical toponomy: in Sri Lanka the Baker's Falls bears his name, and in 1906 Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi while in Ruwenzori, Uganda baptised Mount Baker in his honour.


"Complete works of Sir Samuel White Baker: "

* "- The Rifle And Hound In Ceylon. (1853)"
* "- Eight Years' Wanderings In Ceylon. (1855)"
* "- The Albert N'Yanza Great Basin Of The Nile - And Exploration Of The Nile Sources. (1866)"
* "- The Nile Tributaries Of Abyssinia - And The Sword Of Hamran Arabs. (1867)"
* "- Cast Up By The Sea Or The Adventures Of Ned Grey, A Book For Boys. (1869)"
* "- Ismailia - A Narrative Of The Expedition To Central Africa For The Supression Of Slave Trade, Organised By Ismail, Khadive Of Egypt. (1874)"
* "- Cyprus As I Saw It In 1879 (1879)"
* "- In The Heart Of Africa. (1886)"
* "- Wild Beasts And Their Ways, Reminescenses Of Europe, Asia, Africa And America. (1890)"
* "- True Tales For My Grandsons. (1891)"

"Books about Sir Samuel White Baker:"

* "- Sir Samuel White Baker: A Memoir by T. Douglass Murray & Arthur S. White. Punlished by MacMillan & Co. 1895 London."
* "- Baker Of The Nile by Dorothy Middleton. Published by Falcon Press, 1949, London."
* "- To The Heart Of The Nile: Lady Florence Baker and the Exploration of Central Africa", by Pat Shipman. Published by Harper Collins, NY, 1949
* "- The Perfect Victorian Hero. The Life And Times Of Sir Samuel White Baker by Michael Brander. Published by Mainstream Pub. Co. 1982, London and Edinburgh."
* "- Four Fathers of Big Game Hunting - Biographical Sketches Of The Sporting Lives Of William Cotton Oswell, Henry Astbury Leveson, Samuel White Baker & Roualeyn George Gordon Cumming, by T. R. Thormanby. Publised Read Country Book, 2007"
* "- Le tour du monde - nouveau journal des voyages - livraison n°366,367 et 368 - Voyage à l'Albert N'Yanza ou lac Albert (le louta n'zigé du capitaine Speke) par Sir Samuel White Baker (1861-1864). by Edouard Charton. Published by Hachette, 1867, Paris."

ee also

* Baker's Falls


* See, besides his own writings, "Sir Samuel Baker, a Memoir", by T. Douglas Murray and A. Silva White (London, 1895).

External links

*gutenberg author|id=Sir_Samuel_White_Baker|name=Sir Samuel White Baker


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