Isaacs explored East Africa and became famous in his time for the account of his adventures and journey in his 'Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa with a sketch of Natal' (1836). The book was noted for its description of the Zulus before colonisation and a description of the despot, King Chaka.
The young explorer described how he narrowly avoided death at the hands of the king by what was essentially a mixture of chutzpah and courage - he saved his life and won respect from Chaka for claiming the wrath of the British Empire would fall on his nation should he be killed and for being unafraid of the prospect of his own death.
Later Isaacs even fought for Chaka and was badly wounded by a spear. Isaacs was a would-be Empire builder, attempting without success at the time to persuading the British Government to annex Natal. It seems that his primary interest was in establishing valuable trade for his country. Britain was later to annex Natal in 1845.
After his disappointments with the British government, he continued his career by trading with Africa and later settled surrounded by natives to cultivate and export arrowroot to England. Here he apparently sought in vain to dissuade his native retainers from labouring on the Jewish Sabbath. He died aged 64 at Egremont near Liverpool - contrary to assertions that he died and was buried in Africa.
While there is a Cape Nathaniel named after him in Africa, his modest tombstone at the very back of Canterbury cemetery gives little indication of the adventurous, significant and perhaps controversial life of this nearly forgotten figure.