Jacques Cartier is known for exploring and claiming Canada for the French empire. Cartier, who was originally interested in finding a westward passage to Asia, is credited as being the first European to map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Saint Lawrence River. He also led France's first attempt to colonize Canada.
Cartier, under the sponsorship of King Francis I of France, made his first major expedition to the New World in 1534 in search of gold and other precious materials to claim in the name of the French empire. Cartier soon reached Newfoundland and also explored the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, encountering native tribes and believing he had reached an Asian country.
He would return on his second voyage in 1535, this time sailing up the Saint Lawrence river until he reached Hochelaga, which is now modern day Montreal, Canada. At the time, Cartier was convinced that the Saint Lawrence River was the northwest passage that would take him to China. After waiting through the winter, he returned to France.
Cartier returned to Saint Lawrence with the intent of colonization, founding Charlebourg-Royal. However, after conflicts with the natives, disease and foul weather, Cartier returned to France and the Charlesbourg-Royal was abandoned in 1543. A permanent colony wouldn't be made in Canada until 1605.
Cartier's legacy is significant. He made important cartographic discoveries related to Newfoundland, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Saint Lawrence River. He also brought back valuable information about Canada's natural resources and while his efforts to colonize proved unsuccessful, his attempts were the preliminaries to the significant French colonization that would follow in the subsequent 17th century.