Who Are Some Famous European Explorers?


Quick Answer

Ferdinand Magellan of Portugal, Sir Francis Drake of England and Christopher Columbus of Italy are famous European explorers. Magellan is most famous for leading the first European expedition across the Pacific Ocean in 1519 and circumnavigating the globe. King Charles I of Spain commissioned Magellan's voyage after the king of Portugal refused. Although Magellan died during this expedition, he successfully located a western route to the Spice Islands through a South American passage now known as the Strait of Magellan.

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Full Answer

Sir Francis Drake was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, and he acted as both an explorer and a raider under the authority of Queen Elizabeth I. In his early years, Drake's activities as a pirate and illegal slave trader sparked conflict with the Spanish crown, and he later commanded troops against the Spanish in battles by land and sea. During his travels, he explored the western coast of North America and claimed California for Queen Elizabeth. Drake died in Panama from dysentery while planning a plundering expedition of Spanish holdings.

Christopher Columbus is known for his accidental discovery of the Americas in 1492 after setting sail in search of a western route to Asia. Like explorers before him, Columbus wanted to find a way to reach Asia without sailing around the entire African continent, so he sought a commission from the Spanish crown. Columbus landed at the Caribbean Islands and failed to bring back the riches he had promised. He established the colony of Hispaniola, where settlers famously revolted against Columbus' brothers.

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