James Augustus Grant lived from 11 April 1827 to 11 February 1892. He was an army officer who helped explore eastern equatorial Africa. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
James Augustus Grant was born in Nairn, where his father was a Church of Scotland minister. After being educated at school in Nairn and at Marischal College, Aberdeen, he joined the army at the age of 19 in 1846. As a junior officer he saw active service in the Sikh War of 1848-9, and was wounded at Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny in 1857, returning to Scotland the following year.
In 1860 he joined the expedition led by John Hanning Speke to discover the source of the Nile. The expedition left Zanzibar in October 1860 and returned via Gondokoro in February 1863. Speke was the leader, and Grant made a particular contribution in collecting botanical specimens. In 1864 Grant published his account of the expedition, A Walk across Africa, in which he focused particularly on what he called "the ordinary life and pursuits, the habits and feelings of the natives". It also set out the first detailed description of Mycobacterium ulcerans infection, from which he had suffered during part of the journey.
Grant also published a paper in 1864 entitled "Botany of the Speke and Grant Expedition". In the same year he was awarded the patron's medal of the Royal Geographical Society, and in 1866 he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath.
In 1868 Grant returned to his military duties as a lieutenant-colonel in military intelligence during the Abyssinian campaign, for which he was made a Companion of the Order of the Star of India and awarded the Abyssinian medal. Afterwards he retired from the army and returned to Nairn to settle down with his wife, who he had married in 1865. He continued to live there until his death in 1892.