James Bruce, a Scottish traveller, born at Kinnaird, Dec. 14, 1730, died there, April, 27, 1794. He was educated at London, Harrow, and Edinburgh, and intended for the profession of law; but finding the study distasteful, he went to London, where he married the daughter of a wine merchant's widow, and became a partner in the business. In 1757 he made a tour of southern Europe, partly on business and partly for diversion, returning on the death of his father in the following year to take possession of his estate in Scotland. In 1762 he was appointed consul general at Algiers. He had already spent some time in studying the Arabic and other oriental languages, and took great interest in African explorations; and when he reached Algiers in 1763 he made researches into its history and antiquities, besides acquiring some knowledge of surgery and medicine. Superseded in 1765, he travelled through Tunis and Tripoli, examining their historical remains, and finally embarked for Syria. He visited Palmyra and Baalbec, resided for some time in Aleppo, went to Alexandria, and after some researches into the antiquities of Egypt set out to explore the head waters of the Nile. He spent about two years in Abyssinia, and traced the Abai, then supposed to be the main stream of the Nile, to its source.
He reached England, after many hardships, in 1774. His "Travels to discover the Sources of the Nile, in the Years 1768-'73," did not appear till 1790 (5 vols. 4to). The work contained many statements which were considered fictions at the time of its appearance, but the truth of which has been confirmed by later travellers. A second edition, accompanied by a biography and copious notes, was prepared in 1805 by Dr. Alexander Murray.