In a previous article we have sketched the life of John Lewis Burckhardt. He was born in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1784 of a prominent family. At the age of 16 his father moved the family to Leipzig; and four years after this they moved again to Göttingen. His family was staunchly opposed to the new Napoleonic government that had taken power in France, so he moved to London in July 1806 to seek employment prospects there. At some point, and possibly influenced by the daring men he had contact with there, he decided on a career in exploration.
Before Sir Richard Burton, there was John Lewis Burckhardt. Like many of the great names featured in these pages, he is little known today; but he sacrificed his life in the cause of discovery, and acquired a knowledge of the Arabic language and Islamic customs that has been surpassed by very few–if any–Westerners. Had he lived longer, his achievements would likely have gotten the recognition that they deserved from posterity.