Paul Belloni Du Chaillu (1835 – 1903) was a French-American traveller, zoologist, and anthropologist. He became famous in the 1860s as the first modern European outsider to confirm the existence of gorillas, and later the Pygmy people of central Africa. In his youth, he accompanied his father to the west coast of Africa where, at a station on the Gabon, he was educated by missionaries and acquired an interest in and knowledge of the country, its natural history, its natives, and their languages before emigrating to the U.S. in 1852.
He was sent in 1855 by the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia on an African expedition. Until 1859, he explored the regions of West Africa in the neighbourhood of the equator, gaining considerable knowledge of the delta of the Ogooué River and the estuary of the Gabon. During his travels from 1856 to 1859, he observed numerous gorillas and brought back dead specimens and presented himself as the first white European person to have seen them.
A subsequent expedition, from 1863 to 1865, enabled him to confirm the accounts given by the ancients of a pygmy people inhabiting the African forests. Du Chaillu sold his hunted gorillas to the Natural History Museum in London and his “cannibal skulls” to other European collections; a cased group can be seen in the Ipswich Museum in Suffolk, England.
Paul Du Chaillu also collected and identified a number of new species to science during his travels. He was the first person to scientifically describe the giant otter shrew (Potamogale velox).
He was a member along with a variety of mostly literary figures in author J. M. Barrie’s amateur cricket team, the “Allahakbarries”. He died following a stroke of paralysis at St. Petersburg, while on a scholarly visit to Russia. He is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York City.