Johnston, Alexander Keith (1844-1879) (DNB00)

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JOHNSTON, ALEXANDER KEITH, the younger (1844–1879), geographer, eldest son of Alexander Keith Johnston [q. v.], by Margaret, daughter of Robert Gray of Edinburgh, born at Edinburgh on 24 Nov. 1844, was educated at the Edinburgh Institution and the Grange House school, and carefully trained for the profession of a geographer by his father and private tutors. From April 1866 to July 1867 he was employed by Messrs. Stanford of Charing Cross as superintendent of the drawing and engraving of maps, in which capacity he had a hand in the preparation of the ‘Globe Atlas of Europe,’ and the series of maps illustrating Murray's ‘Handbook for Scotland.’ He then studied German and German geographical methods in Leipzig, Berlin, and Gotha. On his return to England in 1868 he was elected a life member of the Royal Geographical Society, of which he was map-draughtsman and assistant-curator from April 1872 to November 1873. In June 1869 he took charge of the geographical department of the London branch of Messrs. W. & A. K. Johnston's business. In November 1873 he accepted the post of geographer to a recently appointed commission for the survey of the territory of Paraguay. The commission was much hampered by want of money, but Johnston nevertheless succeeded in making some valuable discoveries, which he communicated to the British Association on his return to England in 1875. He also published an interesting narrative of his travels in the ‘Geographical Magazine’ for the same year, and communicated to the Royal Geographical Society a paper entitled ‘Notes on the Physical Geography of Paraguay,’ published in the ‘Proceedings’ of that society in 1876. In June 1878 he was appointed leader of the Royal Geographical Society's expedition to the head of Lake Nyassa, and, leaving England in November, reached Zanzibar in January 1879. It was the rainy season, and the expedition did not really start before May. It had hardly left Dar es Salaam on the African mainland for the interior before Johnston was attacked by dysentery, and he was soon too ill to walk. He pushed on nevertheless, and from the stretcher on which he was carried continued to direct the expedition until he succumbed at Berobero, 120 miles from Dar es Salaam, on 28 June. He was buried beneath a large tree, in the trunk of which were carved his initials and the date of his death. The expedition was carried to a successful issue by his subordinate, Joseph Thomson [q. v.] Johnston did not marry.

Johnston's principal works are: 1. ‘The Library Map of Africa,’ 1866. 2. ‘A Map of the Lake Regions of Eastern Africa, showing the Sources of the Nile recently discovered by Dr. Livingstone. With Notes on the Exploration of this Region,’ &c., Edinburgh, 1870, 8vo. 3. ‘Handbook of Physical Geography,’ Edinburgh and London, 1870, 8vo. 4. ‘The Surface Zones of the Globe. A Handbook to accompany a Physical Chart,’ Edinburgh, 1874, 8vo. 5. A revised edition of Milner's ‘Universal Geography,’ London, 1876, 8vo. 6. ‘The Book of Physical Geography,’ London, 1877. 7. The volume ‘Africa’ in Stanford's ‘Compendium of Geography and Travel,’ London, 1878, 8vo; new edit. by Ravenstein and Keane, 1884, 8vo. 8. A revised edition of Dr. James Bryce's ‘Cyclopedia of Geography,’ London, 1878, 8vo; new edit., 1880, 8vo. Also the following posthumous works: 1. ‘Handbook to the Terrestrial Globe,’ Edinburgh and London, 1879, 8vo. 2. ‘A Physical, Historical, Political, and Descriptive Geography,’ London, 1880, 8vo; 4th edit., revised by Ravenstein, 1890, 8vo. 3. ‘Handbook to the School Physical Map of America,’ Edinburgh and London, 1880, 8vo. 4. ‘A School Physical and Descriptive Geography,’ 2nd edit. London, 1882, 8vo; 5th edit., revised by Ravenstein, 1889, 8vo.

[Obituary and other notices in Proceedings of Royal Geogr. Society, new monthly ser. i. (1879), and in Thomson's To the Central African Lakes and Back, London, 1881; Geogr. Mag. 1875, ii. 201, 284, 308, 342; ‘Notices and Abstracts,’ British Association Reports, xlv. 193; Proc. of Royal Geogr. Society, xx. 494; Brit. Mus. Cat.; private information.]

J. M. R.