Marie Joseph François (Francis) Garnier was born on July 25, 1839 at Saint-Étienne, Loire.
He entered the French Navy and, after voyaging in Brazilian waters and the Pacific, he obtained a post on the staff of Admiral Léonard Victor Charner who, from February 1860 to November 1861, was campaigning in Cochinchine.
After some time spent in France, Garnier returned to the East and, in 1862, he was appointed inspector of native affairs in Cochinchine and entrusted with the administration of Cholon, a suburb of Saigon.
It was at his suggestion that the Marquis de Chasseloup-Laubat determined to send a mission to explore the valley of the Mekong River but, as Garnier was not considered old enough to be put in command, the chief authority was entrusted to Captain de Lagrée.
In the course of the expedition – to quote the words of Sir Roderick Murchison addressed to Garnier when, in 1870, he was presented with the Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London – “from Kratie in Cambodia to Shanghai 5392 miles were traversed, and of these, 3625 miles, chiefly of country unknown to European geography, were surveyed with care, and the positions fixed by astronomical observations, nearly the whole of the observations being taken by Garnier himself”.
Volunteering to lead a detachment to Ta-li, the capital of Sultan Suleiman – the sovereign of the Muslim rebels in Yunnan – Garnier successfully carried out the more-than-adventurous enterprise.
When shortly afterward Lagrée died, Garnier naturally assumed the command of the expedition, and he conducted it in safety to the Yangtze River, and thus to the Chinese coast.
Further information: Literature of Travel and Exploration