Meet the Explorers

Drawing of William Dunbar

William Dunbar had a love for both science and discovery.

William Dunbar

Dunbar was born in Elgin, Scotland in 1750 to a prominent family.  From 1763 to 1767, Dunbar attended school and studied the natural sciences.  In the spring of 1771, he sailed from London to Philadelphia to try his luck in America. He initially became a merchant in Philadelphia; transporting goods he brought with him from London in an effort to enter the Indian trade. Through Jefferson, Dunbar would be introduced to the rest of the American scientific community. Dunbar never met with Jefferson in person, but the two corresponded for many years. Jefferson would later ask him to lead the Red River expedition in 1804 and to organize another one in 1806. Dunbar became known throughout the lower Mississippi Valley for his many interests and endeavors including his expansive cotton plantation.

Drawing of Dr. George Hunter

George Hunter was an established chemist in Philadelphia.

George Hunter

George Hunter was also born in Scotland; however he was not born into a prominent family like Dunbar.  For financial reasons, he began at a young age apprenticing with a druggist to pay for his education.  He would later move to Philadelphia where he secured a job as a druggist, and during the American Revolution, he would enlist as a soldier and served as an apothecary in the Continental Army.  Between 1796 and 1802, he would conduct several explorations into the Illinois and Kentucky backcountry speculating the land and searching for mineral deposits.  His reputation as an explorer and scientist extended to the White House, and in 1804, President Thomas Jefferson said of Hunter, "in the practical branch of that science he has probably no equal in the U.S."