Henri Mouhot was one of the widely admired explorers of the 19th century who came to Southeast Asia. Mouhot arrived in 1858 via Singapore in Bangkok and used it as a base for his four journeys into the inner parts of Siam, Cambodia and Laos.
A sketch of Henri Mouhot. Image source: 'Travels in the Central Parts of Indochina'.
Mouhot's name is strongly connected to the medieval nekropolis of Angkor, and sometimes he is wrongly seen as the 'discoverer' of Angkor and Angkor Wat. That is factually wrong; other Westerners visited Angkor since the 16th century several times. Though, Mouhots posthumously published travel narration made the Angkor site for the first time popular in Europe.
Henri Mouhot was born in 1826 in Montbéliard/France, near to the Swiss border. According to his brother Charles he left the family in the age of eighteen and travelled to Russia, where he spent some ten years and gained a professorship in philology. Mouhot travelled also through Europe and was fascinated by early photography, developed by Louis Daguerre.
He married an English women who was supposedly the granddaughter of the famous Scottish early 19th century Africa explorer Mungo Park. They lived for a while on the isle Jersey. Fascinated by travelling and foreign countries, and equipped with a strong constitution and good health, the lecture of John Bowrings 1857 publication 'The Kingdom and People of Siam' triggered his decision to make a journey to Southeast Asia. Interestingly, French institutions declined financial support, which was granted finally by the British Royal Geographical Society and the Zoological Society of London. His tasks were collecting animals and sending them back to England (as Alfred Russel Wallace did at the same time further southwards), describing the countries and people and mapping the areas he would travel to.