Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, a Swiss traveller, born in Lausanne, Nov. 24, 1784, died in Cairo, Oct. 17, 1817. After studying at Leipsic and Gottingen, he went to England in July, 1806, where an introduction from Blumenbach made him acquainted with Sir Joseph Banks, who, with the other members of the African association, accepted his offer to explore Africa. He studied Arabic for several years in London and Cambridge, and in 1809 sailed for Malta, where he disguised himself as an Arab merchant, assuming the name of Sheikh Ibrahim ibn Abdallah. Thence he proceeded to Syria, and joined a caravan to Aleppo, where he remained for some time, gaining such a knowledge of the eastern character, customs, and languages, that afterward in times of trial and danger he was able to pass not only as a genuine but as a learned Mussulman. In the latter half of 1810 he visited Palmyra, the Lebanon, Her-mon, and other localities, and explored the Hauran, where he found many vestiges of ancient cities and Greek inscriptions. In January, 1811, he undertook excursions into the desert toward the Euphrates, and on one of these occasions was robbed. In February he again repaired to Damascus, made another journey into the Hauran, transmitted an account of his discoveries there to England, and on June 18 departed for the Dead sea.
He explored its shores, visited many interesting localities in its vicinity, and subsequently the ruins of Petra, which no modern European traveller had explored before him. Proceeding toward Akaba, he joined a small caravan, crossed the desert of Et-Tih, and, passing a short distance to the north of Suez, journeyed on to Cairo. He then visited the principal ruins of the Nile and the temple of Ipsambul. On March 2, 1814, he joined at Esneh a caravan of about 50 slave dealers, and after suffering innumerable trials and privations, he arrived at Jiddah, July 18. Mehemet All penetrated his disguise, but relieved him in his pecuniary distress, and permitted him to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, where he arrived Sept. 9; and after making also a pilgrimage to Mount Arafat, he visited Medina, and, barely escaping from the plague, finally returned to Cairo, June 24, 1815. He then undertook a journey into lower Egypt, and in 1816 visited and ascended Mount Sinai. He was about to join a caravan for Fezzan, with a view of exploring the sources of the Niger, when he died, and as a sheikh was interred in the Moslem burial ground.
He bequeathed his collection of 500 volumes of oriental MSS. to the library of the university of Cambridge. His works include narratives of his travels in Nubia (London, 1819), in Syria and the Holy Land (1822), in Arabia (1829), "Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians" (1830), "Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabys" (1830), and "Arabian Proverbs" (1831).