Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885), English traveller and soldier, was born on the 3rd of March 1842, at Bedford, the son of a clergyman. Educated at Harrow and in Germany, he entered the Royal Horse Guards in 1859. Finding no chance for active service, his spirit of adventure sought outlets in balloon-ascents and in travels through Spain and Russia. In the summer of 1874 he accompanied the Carlist forces as correspondent of The Times, but before the end of the war he was transferred to Africa to report on Gordon's expedition to the Sudan. This took Burnaby as far as Khartum. Returning to England in March 1875, he matured his plans for a journey on horseback to Khiva through Russian Asia, which had just been closed to travellers. His accomplishment of this task, in the winter of 1875-1876, described in his book A Ride to Khiva, brought him immediate fame. His next leave of absence was spent in another adventurous journey on horseback, through Asia Minor, from Scutari to Erzerum, with the object of observing the Russian frontier, an account of which he afterwards published. In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, Burnaby (who soon afterwards became lieut.-colonel) acted as travelling agent to the Stafford House (Red Cross) Committee, but had to return to England before the campaign was over.

At this point began his active interest in politics, and in 1880 he unsuccessfully contested a seat at Birmingham in the Tory-Democrat interest. In 1882 he crossed the Channel in a balloon. Having been disappointed in his hope of seeing active service in the Egyptian campaign of 1882, he participated in the Suakin campaign of 1884 without official leave, and was wounded at El Teb when acting as an intelligence officer under General Valentine Baker. This did not deter him from a similar course when a fresh expedition started up the Nile. He was given a post by Lord Wolseley, and met his death in the hand-to-hand fighting of the battle of Abu Klea (17th January 1885).