There are many explorers who have redefined history, however, there are few who have influenced the very establishment of certain countries. Christopher Columbus is one such historical figure who changed the perception of the American continents for the European countries. Through his four significant voyages he not only discovered new land masses, but also initiated Spanish colonization and the establishment of several new societies. After a lot of struggle to get the support of the Spanish and Portuguese governments, he finally succeeded in getting a grant which funded his travels. He set out to discover Asia for its spices and condiments. However, he ended up discovering Hispaniola. Even though he was not the first to discover America, he did open the gateway between Europe and America and paved the way for the exploration and conquest of America by the Europeans. A strained relationship with the Spanish crown, worked to his disadvantage and he was divested of the Governorship of the island of Hispaniola which he discovered himself. His life was a historical journey, which reflected his adventurous and righteous personality, and earned him a permanent place in the annals of explorations. To learn more interesting information pertaining to this great explorer's personal life and achievements, continue reading his biography.
Thirteenth-century explorer and namesake of the swimming pool game. He was the first European to keep a detailed journal of his experiences in China, and his writings became points of inspiration of <a title='Christopher Columbus' href='/famous/christopher-columbus.htm'>Christopher Columbus</a>.
John Smith was an English soldier and explorer who played a significant role in the establishment of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. While in North America he led an extensive exploration of the regions surrounding Virginia and mapped the Chesapeake Bay area and New England, becoming the first English explorer to do so. He was an expert at drawing maps and this skill of his greatly helped the English in exploring new areas for colonizing in the New World. Born into a farming family, he developed an early interest in travelling and exploring. His father died when he was 16 and he left his home at around this time to seek out his future. He traveled to France and joined the French army in their fight for Dutch independence from the Spanish King Phillip II. After returning to England and studying horsemanship, he went to Hungary to fight the Turks. Following his capture by the enemy, ill treatment and subsequent escape from his tormentors, he returned to England. His experiences further fuelled his love for adventure and he became involved with the Virginia Company which sponsored an expedition to North America. The English reached Jamestown in 1607 and Smith played a significant role in establishing the territory as an English colony
James Cook was a famous British explorer who discovered New Zealand and surveyed and mapped features and coastlines, especially the Pacific Ocean in great details and on a scale hitherto not achieved. His adventures on his ship, the ˜HMS Endeavor' and his discoveries have steered generations of voyagers, explorers and cartographers. Born in the Scottish countryside, Cook began his tryst with the ˜unknown' when he started off as the Captain of the Royal Navy and took command of the first scientific manned expedition to the Pacific. He returned victorious, discovering New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia; the two places still considered some of the most dangerous areas ever navigated by a human. Since then, he undertook a number of expeditions; from Antarctica to New South Wales and present-day Tonga to the legendary continent, ˜Terra Australis'. Cook was a man of perseverance and was responsible for not just pushing himself into the unknown but a horde of others, who dived into the depths of the indefinite along with him. However, he was scoffed by many for his hygiene measures and the stringent diet that his men had to follow in order to avert the deadly gum disease; scurvy. His coastal charting is still considered one of the most advanced at his time and has helped in many present-day discoveries. If you would like to learn more interesting information about Captain James Cook, scroll further.
English navigator who conducted sea explorations in the early seventeenth century. He discovered a river in New York for the Dutch East India Company, who named it the Hudson River.
Better known as Johnny Appleseed, he planted apple trees across the American frontier as a missionary for The New Church. Contrary to popular belief, he did not spread seeds at random, but planted nurseries of sour apple trees for settlers to make hard cider.
Famous Portuguese explorer who sought a westerly route for spices. He planned the first successful expedition to circumnavigate the world.
Famed Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that decimated the Aztec Empire. He was not awarded the title of viceroy as he had hoped, but was named Marques del Valle de Oaxoaca.
Daniel Boone was an 18th century American explorer best known for his exploration and settlement of what is now Kentucky. His explorations and exploits as a frontiersman catapulted him to the status of a folk hero”one of the first ones to emerge from the United States. He was born into a family of Quakers who had been persecuted in England for their dissenting beliefs and had thus moved to Pennsylvania. As one of the several children in his family, Daniel started hunting at the age of 12 to be able to gather enough food for his large family. Even though the children in his family were provided good education, his interests lay more in hunting and exploring than in reading and writing. He became a skilled hunter and this kindled in him a love for adventure. Hunting also made him familiar with travelling and exploring newer routes in the wilderness. Even though the Quakers were primarily pacifists, he had served during the Revolutionary war as a militia officer. He participated in several expeditions including the military expedition that was part of the French and Indian War in which he served as a wagoner for Brigadier General Edward Braddock during his army's defeat at Turtle Creek. Eventually he led his own long hunting expedition during the course of which he explored the place which is now Kentucky
Sea captain and slaver who commanded the English fleet against the Spanish Armada under Queen Elizabeth I in 1588.
Jacques Cartier was a 16th century French explorer credited to have claimed what is now Canada for France. The credit for naming the region also goes to him”he used the name ˜Canada' derived from the Huron-Iroquois word ˜kanata', meaning a village or settlement”to refer to the area around what is now Quebec city. Cartier was also the first European to describe and map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River. It was his exploration of the area around Saint Lawrence River that eventually led France to lay claim to the regions which later constituted Canada. Not much is known about the life of Cartier before he became a famous explorer. It is generally believed that as a young man he accompanied Giovanni da Verrazzano on unofficial explorations initiated by the king of France. He probably gained some valuable navigational experiences by way of these unofficial explorations as he was later on commissioned by the king to embark on voyages with the aim of discovering a western passage to Asia. He discovered Prince Edward Island on his first voyage, and impressed by his exploratory skills, the king sent him on other voyages in future during the course of which he explored, and claimed the modern-day Canada for France.
Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian explorer and navigator after whom the Americas were named. He was the first person who demonstrated to the world that Brazil and the West Indies were not a part of Asia's eastern outskirts as was generally believed in the 15th century. Based on his extensive navigation and explorations, he stated that the newly discovered lands constituted an entirely separate landmass hitherto unknown to the Europeans. Initially referred to as the New world, the super-continent was later named America in the honor of this great explorer. Born into a prominent family in Florence, Italy, he received a humanistic education from his paternal uncle, a Dominican friar named Giorgio Antonio Vespucci. He embarked on a career as a merchant upon growing up and found employment as a clerk at the Florentine commercial house of Medici. He was once sent by his employer on a trip to France and he became fascinated with the concepts of travelling and exploring. Eventually he moved to Spain and became an explorer when he was in his 40s. Initially he sailed under the Spanish flag but was later on invited by the king of Portugal to participate in voyages. During these voyages he discovered that the modern-day South America extended much further south than previously thought
Meriwether Lewis was an American explorer, politician and soldier. He is renowned for his role as the leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The purpose of the expedition was to explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase (Louisiana territory acquired by the United States from France in 1803) and establish trade with and sovereignty over the natives and claim the Oregon Country and Pacific Northwest for the U.S. before the European countries. This expedition also aimed at gaining valued information about geographic nature of the region by collecting scientific data and knowledge about natives including flora and fauna. After his successful expedition, he was appointed as the Governor of Upper Louisiana by President Thomas Jefferson in 1806. ˜Lewis and Clark Exposition dollars' made of gold were minted and postage stamps were issued to honour both Lewis and Clark. Many plants and their subspecies have been named after him. Geographic locations including Lewis County, Tennessee, and Lewis County, Washington, academic institutions and several US Navy vessels were also named after him as a mark of honour.
He set the record for the fastest sea voyage around the world, doing it in just 35 days. He held this traveling record for 13 years.
Sir Joseph Banks, 1st Baronet, GCB, PRS was an English naturalist and botanist whose work paved the way for future-botanists. His passion for botany became apparent at a young age and lasted his entire life. Born into a rich family, he craved for knowledge throughout his life. After inheriting a vast family fortune he could finally chase his passion, and went on to explore previously uncharted and unknown territories. While studying at Oxford as a gentleman-commoner he paid a Cambridge professor to come and deliver a series of lectures on botany. He embarked on a voyage with James Cook aboard the HMS Endeavour and became well-known after returning with a major collection of specimens. He became the adviser to King George III on the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and made the garden incomparable to any other botanical garden in the world. He also played an integral part in England's colonization of the Australian continent and became the acknowledged authority in New South Wales. Later in his life, he was a prominent endorser and financer for travelers and scientific men and stated through his discoveries and investigations that marsupial mammals were more primitive than placental mammals. Throughout his life he received numerous fellowships and was a member of multifarious societies
William Clark was an American explorer who along with <a title='Meriwether Lewis' href='/famous/meriwether-lewis.htm'>Meriwether Lewis</a> led an epic expedition to the Pacific Northwest. Named after these great explorers, the Lewis and Clark Expedition was undertaken following the Louisiana Purchase and aimed at claimed the Pacific Northwest for the United States before any of the European powers did. Before being selected for the expedition Clark served in a militia. Born into a large family of tobacco planters in Virginia, he enjoyed an adventurous childhood filled with fox hunts, cockfights, and shooting tournaments. His five older brothers fought in the American Revolutionary War but William was too young at that time. On growing up he joined a volunteer militia force under Major John Hardin to fight in the American Indian conflicts of the Ohio frontier. He then entered the U.S. Army and commanded a company of riflemen at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, playing an important role in the decisive U.S. victory that brought the Northwest Indian War to an end. He eventually retired from the army due to poor health. After a few years he was invited by his friend <a title='Meriwether Lewis' href='/famous/meriwether-lewis.htm'>Meriwether Lewis</a> to join him on an expedition to the Pacific Northwest. The expedition which took several long months to complete was a resounding success which catapulted both Clark and Lewis to the status of legendary explorers.
16th-century Spanish conquistador who was the first documented person to cross the Mississippi River while searching for gold and silver.
Well-known explorer known for embarking on numerous expeditions to the Greenland Sea, the Barents Sea, and a scientific and commercial journey to the Persian Gulf.
Considered The Father of Texas, he led the first legal settlement expedition of 300 families to the region, thus "founding" the state for the early Americans.
Irish Antarctic explorer who became a hero without ever accomplishing his dream of crossing the Antarctic.
Early American folk hero who fought skillfully with knives and helped Texas to gain its independence.
Explorer who became the youngest person to sail unassisted around the world without stopping in May 2010. The journey spanned 21,600 nautical miles and lasted from October 2009 to May 2010.
Matthew Henson was an African-American explorer who accompanied the famous American explorer <a title='Robert Peary' href='/famous/robert-e-peary.htm'>Robert Peary</a> on his 1909 expedition to Greenland and became the first African-American to reach the Geographic North Pole. Henson and Peary had been on several voyages together but it was the 1909 expedition that earned them worldwide fame and catapulted them to the international glory. Their claim of becoming the first people to reach the North Pole has been subject to dispute though it did not prevent them from earning international honors for their achievements. Born as the son of two freeborn black sharecroppers, Henson was orphaned at an early age and was placed in the care of relatives. He left home as a young boy and found work as a cabin boy on a ship. Over the next few years he was mentored by the ship's captain who took him on several voyages and imbibed in him a love for exploration. Years later he met <a title='Robert Peary' href='/famous/robert-e-peary.htm'>Robert Peary</a> who told him of his exploration plans and appointed Henson as a valet on his surveying expedition to Nicaragua. Henson proved to be a skilled travelling aide, and impressed by his capabilities Peary made him an associate for his future explorations.