Get to know some notable figures in the KAGA's history
The first article of the Society's statutes stipulated that the Society was established to advance science and spread geographical knowledge. Geographical scientific achievements were to be popularized, in order to stimulate trade and industry.
Therefore, the KAGA invited explorers, geographers and other scientists to give lectures and presentations on their discoveries and their view of the world. They celebrated their achievements, hosted expositions, funded expeditions, organized conventions and edited a periodical.
Paul Panda Farnana (born in 1888) was the first Congolese person who enjoyed a higher education in Belgium and France. He was also the first Congolese nationalist, denouncing the colonial methods established by the Belgians. Paul was an actively militant pan-Africanist, he even collaborated with Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine for the organization of the 2nd Panafrican Congress. He founded the Congolese Union in 1919, the oldest non-profit organization initiated by the Congolese on Belgian soil.
In this document, Farnana asks to attentd a lecture 'Le Congo', because he is a native of the Congo Free State and loves his fatherland.
Roald Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer and a member of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition by de Gerlache. He later led an Antarctic expedition himself (1910-1912) that was the first to reach the South Pole, in spite of Robert Falcon Scott who reached the pole five weeks later.
Amundsen also ventured to the north. If the claims by Frederick Cook, Robert Peary and Richard E. Byrd are false (which they could well be), the crew of Amundsen would be the first to have reached the North Pole, without even knowing it.
As a geographer and explorer, Alexander Hamilton Rice specialized in rivers. Between the two World Wars he organized and led seven expeditions into the jungles of South America. He surveyed and mapped half a million square miles of unexplored territory, established hospitals for the Indian people of Brazil and conducted research in tropical diseases. He also founded the Harvard Institute of Geographical Exploration.
As a French army man, Henri Gouraud was assigned to the French Sudan in 1894. The capture of Samori (which meant the end of the opposition to colonialism for a while) made him a celebrated man in France. As a result, Gouraud's colonial career took a flying start. In Morocco, he served under Hubert Lyautey, another French Army general and colonial administrator. In 1923, Gouraud returned to France, where he was Military Governor of Paris from 1923 to 1937.
Alphonse Vangele (born in 1848, Brussels) joined the Belgian army in 1867. He went to the Congo, where he was in service of Henry Morton Stanley for the Upper Congo Expedition in 1882. Together with Camille Coquilhat, they built the city Equateurville, later known as Coquilhatville. In June 1886 he returned to the Congo and became commander of the regions between the Itimbiri and the Stanley Falls.
Thor Heyerdahl was an Norwegian adventurer, geographer and ethnographer. His Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947 was designed to demonstrate that ancient people could have made long sea voyages, creating contacts between separate cultures. He therefore sailed 8,000 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean, to prove his theory that the South American peoples could have originally populated Polynesia.
Paul Otlet, the man who invented the Internet in 1910, or at least the idea of it, was planning to give a lecture in Antwerp. His work started with the idea of organizing all information available in the world in one catalogue: a giant bibliography on paper cards.
He also came up with the idea of a world city. As the map shows, one of the plans for a 'cité mondiale' used a location northwest of Antwerp. Together with Henri la Fontaine he called it the City of Knowledge (later the Mundaneum), it would serve as a central repository for the world's information.