DESMOND Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town, is to lead a celebration of the life of explorer David Livingstone at the University of Glasgow.

The churchman will introduce a lecture by Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, former First Minister of Scotland, on Dr Livingstone's work as a missionary and scientist.

In a video message, he will say: "Many Scots have been at the forefront of the struggle for justice and respect for humanity, particularly in Africa, and of course David Livingstone is the greatest of all the Scottish figures in these endeavours."

Lord McConnell's speech will be preceded by a one-day symposium to examine Dr Livingstone's contribution to Africa, being held to coincide with the 200th anniversary of his birth.

It will explore the Blantyre-born Scot's medical legacy in the continent, which has been less recognised than his work as an explorer. Aside from his discovery of Lake Victoria and the Victoria Falls, it was Livingstone who promoted quinine's use for malaria and suggested arsenic compounds might treat diseases caused by tsetse fly bites. He also observed that the presence of mosquitoes was linked to higher prevalence of malaria.

International experts from the World Health Organisation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, St George's University of London, Makerere University in Uganda and the University of Glasgow will take part in the discussion on the historical and contemporary issues surrounding health and infectious diseases in Africa.

Professor Mike Barrett, who is leading the symposium, said: "David Livingstone was able to survive in parts of Africa where other Europeans had not and much of this was down to the medical observations he made.

"He was an astonishing man. His observations on Africa and its people put him on a par with someone like David Attenborough today. He was also a devout Christian and a pioneer in the fight against slavery."