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A few hundred years ago, the known physical world was a lot smaller. With the discovery of the 'new world' (and its gold deposits), many Europeans were emboldened to find out more about what was out there and wasted no time launching ships and staking claims. Here are many of the more successful.
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Cross-listed in ArtistsNaval

Sir George Back

bornactivedied
1796, Nov 61808-18391878, Jun 23
a British naval officer, explorer of the Canadian Arctic, naturalist and artist. As a boy, he went to sea as a volunteer in the frigate HMS Arethusa in 1808 and took part in the destruction of batteries on the Spanish coast. In the following year, he was involved in combat in the Bay of Biscay, until he was captured by the French. Back remained a prisoner un...
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Links (1)


William Baffin

bornactivedied
unknown1612-16221622, Jan 23
an English navigator and explorer. In 1615, Baffin entered the service of the Company for the discovery of the Northwest Passage, and accompanied Captain Robert Bylot as pilot of the little ship Discovery, and carefully explored the Hudson Strait. In 1617–1619 sailed to Surat in British India, and on his return received the special recognition of the Compa...
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Links (2)


Cross-listed in Writers

Samuel Baker

bornactivedied
1821, Jun 81846-18911893, Dec 30
a British explorer, officer, naturalist, big game hunter, engineer, writer and abolitionist. He also held the titles of Pasha and Major-General in the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. He served as the Governor-General of the Equatorial Nile Basin, which he established as the Province of Equatoria. He is mostly remembered as the discoverer of Lake Albert, as an expl...
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Links (1)


Vasco Nunez de Balboa

aka: Núñez
bornactivedied
1475 ca1500-15191519, Jan 12/21
a Spanish explorer, governor, and conquistador. He is best known for having crossed the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean, becoming the first European to lead an expedition to have seen or reached the Pacific from the New World.
Timeline (1)Links (2)


Cross-listed in Writers

Jacques Balmat

borndied
17621834
a mountaineer, a Savoyard mountain guide, born in the Chamonix valley in Savoy, at this time part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. A chamois hunter and collector of crystals, Balmat completed the first ascent of Mont Blanc with physician Michel-Gabriel Paccard on 8 August 1786. For this feat, King Victor Amadeus III gave him the honorary title le Mont Blanc. Balm...
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Timeline (1)Links (1)


Cross-listed in Scientists

Joseph Banks

bornactivedied
1743, Feb 131766-18201820, Jun 19
a British naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences. Banks made his name on the 1766 natural history expedition to Newfoundland and Labrador. He took part in Captain James Cook's first great voyage (1768–1771), visiting Brazil, Tahiti, and, after 6 m...
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Links (1)


Cross-listed in Writers

Duarte Barbosa

bornactivedied
1480 ca1500-15211521, May 1
a Portuguese writer and Portuguese India officer between 1500 and 1516–1517, with the post of scrivener in Cannanore factory and sometimes interpreter of the local language (Malayalam). His Book of Duarte Barbosa (Livro de Duarte Barbosa) is one of the earliest examples of Portuguese travel literature, written c. 1516, shortly after the arrival in the Indi...
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Links (1)


Pero de Barcelos

aka: Pêro
bornactivedied
unknown1498-1501unknown
a Portuguese navigator who explored the coasts of North America with João Fernandes Labrador, he was the first to sight the coast of Labrador in North America.
Notes (1)


Cross-listed in Cartographers

Willem Barentsz

aka: William Barents, William Barentz
bornactivedied
1550 ca1594-15971597, Jun 20
a Dutch navigator, cartographer, and Arctic explorer. He went on three expeditions to the far north in search for a Northeast passage. During his third expedition, the crew was stranded on Nova Zembla for almost a year.
Timeline (3)Links (2)


Cross-listed in Writers

Heinrich Barth

bornactivedied
1821, Feb 161844-18641865, Nov 25
a German explorer of Africa and scholar, thought to be one of the greatest European explorers of Africa, as his scholarly preparation, ability to speak and write Arabic, learning African languages, and character meant that he carefully documented the details of the cultures he visited. He was among the first to comprehend the uses of oral history of peoples,...
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Links (1)


Cross-listed in NavalPhysicians

George Bass

bornactivedied
1771, Jan 301789-1803unknown
a British naval surgeon and explorer of Australia. At the age of 18 he was accepted in London as a member of the Company of Surgeons, and in 1794 he joined the Royal Navy as a surgeon. He arrived in Sydney in New South Wales on HMS Reliance on 7 September 1795.
Links (1)


Cross-listed in Writers

Henry Walter Bates

bornactivedied
1825, Feb 81843-1880s1892, Feb 16
an English naturalist and explorer who gave the first scientific account of mimicry in animals. He was most famous for his expedition to the rainforests of the Amazon with Alfred Russel Wallace, starting in 1848. Wallace returned in 1852, but lost his c...
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Links (1)


Cross-listed in NavalScientistsCartographers

Nicolas Baudin

bornactivedied
1754, Feb 171769-18031803, Sep 16
a French explorer, cartographer, naturalist and hydrographer. At the age of 15 he joined the merchant navy, and at 20 joined the French East India Company. He then joined the French navy and served in the Caribbean as an officer bleu during the American War of Independence. He subsequently traveled to (and explored) China and Australia,
Links (1)


James Beckwourth

aka: James Beckwith, Jim Beckwourth
borndied
1798/1800, Apr 261866/67, Oct 29
an American mountain man, fur trader, and explorer. A mulatto born into slavery in Virginia, he was freed by his father (and master) and apprenticed to a blacksmith; later he moved to the American West. As a fur trapper, he lived with the Crow Nation for years. He is credited with the discovery of Beckwourth Pass, through the Sierra Nevada (U.S.) Mountains, ...
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Timeline (1)Links (1)


Sebastian de Belalcazar

aka: Sebastián Moyano
bornactivedied
1479/80/951507-15511551
a Spanish conquistador. He entered Nicaragua with Francisco Hernández de Córdoba in 1524 during the conquest of Nicaragua, and became the first mayor of the city of León in Nicaragu. In 1534, while commanding the settlemet of San Miguel for Francisco Pizarromore
Links (7)


Cross-listed in NavalWritersCartographers

Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen

bornactivedied
1778, Sep 91796-18521852, Jan 13
a Baltic-German officer in the Imperial Russian Navy, cartographer and explorer, ultimately rose to the rank of Admiral. He participated in the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe and subsequently became a leader of another circumnavigation expedition, which discovered the continent of Antarctica.
Timeline (1)Links (1)


Joseph Rene Bellot

aka: Joseph René
bornactivedied
1826, Mar 181845-18531853, Aug 18
a French Arctic explorer. In 1851 he joined the Arctic expedition under the command of Captain William Kennedy in search of Sir John Franklin. When he met his first Inuit he endeared himself to them by constructing an artificial leg for a man who was disabled. Early in 1852 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and in the same year accompanied the Fran...
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Links (1)


Cross-listed in WritersScientists

Pierre Belon

aka: Pierre Belon du Mans, Petrus Bellonius Cenomanus
borndied
15171564
a French explorer, naturalist, writer and diplomat. Like many others of the Renaissance period, he studied and wrote on a range of topics including ichthyology, ornithology, botany, comparative anatomy, architecture and Egyptology. Belon was typical of the renaissance scholar and took an interest in "all kinds of good disciplines" in his lifetime. He was int...
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Links (1)


Cross-listed in PiratesMilitaryWriters

Maurycy Beniowski

aka: Baron Maurice de Benyowski, Móric Benyovszky, Móric Benyovszky
bornactivedied
1746, Sep 201762-17861786, May 23
a Hungarian nobleman of Polish and Hungarian ancestry. He was an explorer, writer, the self-declared King of Madagascar, and a military officer in the French, Polish, Austrian and American armies. He is considered a national hero in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.
Links (1)


Cross-listed in Naval

Vitus Bering

aka: Ivan Ivanovich Bering
bornactivedied
1681, Aug1699-17411741, Dec 19
a Danish born explorer in Russian service, and an officer in the Russian Navy. He is known for his two explorations of the north-eastern coast of the Asian continent and from there the western coast on the North American continent. The Bering Strait, the Bering Sea, Bering Island, the Bering Glacier and the Bering Land Bridge have since all been (posthumousl...
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Timeline (3)Links (13)


Cross-listed in Clergy

Tomas de Berlanga

aka: Tomás
borndied
14871551, Aug 8
the fourth Bishop of Panamá. In 1535, he sailed to Peru to settle a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro over division of territory after the conquest of the Inca Empire. His ship stalled when the winds died and strong currents carried him out to the Galápagos Islands which he thus discovered on March 10, 1535.
Timeline (1)Links (1)


Cross-listed in Writers

George Best

borndied
unknown1584
a member of the second and third Martin Frobisher voyages in positions of importance; as Frobisher's lieutenant on the second and as captain of the Anne Francis on the third. He published A True Discourse of the Late Voyages of Discoverie (1578). The True Discourse included the First Frobisher Voyage, in which Best did not participate, as well ...
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Links (1)


Cross-listed in Pirates

Abraham Blauvelt

aka: Abraham Blewfields, Abraham Bluefields
bornactivedied
1600 ca1630-16631663 ca
a Dutch privateer and explorer mapping much of Central America in the 1630s, after whom both the Bluefield River and the neighboring town of Bluefields, Nicaragua were named. One of the last of the Dutch corsairs of the mid-17th century, Abraham Blauvelt was first recorded exploring the coasts of present day Honduras and Nicaragua in service of the Dutch Wes...
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Links (3)Notes (1)


Adriaen Block

bornactivedied
1567 ca1590s-16271627, Aug
a Dutch private trader and navigator who is best known for exploring the coastal and river valley areas between present-day New Jersey and Massachusetts during four voyages from 1611 to 1614, following the 1609 expedition by Henry Hudson. He is noted for having na...
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Links (1)


Cross-listed in Naval

Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra

bornactivedied
1744, May 221770s-1790s1794, Mar 26
a Spanish naval officer born in Lima, Peru. Assigned to the Pacific coast Spanish Naval Department base at San Blas, in the Viceroyalty of New Spain (present day Mexico), this navigator explored the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America as far north as present day Alaska.
Links (1)


Cross-listed in Military

Benjamin Bonneville

borndied
1796, Apr 141878, Jun 12
a French-born officer in the United States Army, fur trapper, and explorer in the American West. He is noted for his expeditions to the Oregon Country and the Great Basin, and in particular for blazing portions of the Oregon Trail. During his lifetime, Bonneville was made famous by an account of his explorations in the West written by Washington Irving.
Timeline (1)Links (1)


Daniel Boone

bornactivedied
1734, Oct 221755-18161820, Sep 26
an American pioneer, explorer, woodsman, and frontiersman, whose frontier exploits made him one of the first folk heroes of the United States. Boone is most famous for his exploration and settlement of what is now Kentucky, which was then part of Virginia but on the other side of the mountains from the settled areas. As a young adult, Boone supplemented his ...
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Timeline (2)Links (15)


Cross-listed in NavalWriters

Louis Antoine de Bougainville

bornactivedied
1729, Nov 121753-18111811, Aug 31
a French admiral and explorer. A contemporary of the British explorer James Cook, he took part in the Seven Years' War in North America and the American Revolutionary War against Britain. Bougainville later gained fame for his expeditions, including circumnavigation...
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Links (10)


Cross-listed in ArtistsWriters

Marc-Theodore Bourrit

aka: Marc-Théodore
borndied
17391819
a genevois traveller and writer. He was a good artist and etcher, and also a pastor, so that by reason of his fine voice and love of music he was made (1768) precentor of the church of St Peter (the former cathedral) at Geneva. This post enabled him to devote himself to the exploration of the Alps, for which he had conceived a great passion ever since an asc...
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Links (1)


Cross-listed in Governance

Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier

borndied
1705, Jan 141786
a French sailor, explorer, and governor of the Mascarene Islands. He became a lieutenant of the French East India Company in 1731. He succeeded in convincing his employer to provide him with two ships and send him on an exploration mission in the South Atlantic. With his ships Aigle and Marie he discovered on 1 January 1739 a tiny island which was named Bouv...
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Timeline (1)Links (2)


Cross-listed in Naval

Edward Bransfield

borndied
1785 ca1852, Oct 31
an officer in the British Royal Navy, serving as a master on several ships, after being impressed into service at the age of eighteen in Ireland, where he was born. He is noted for exploring parts of Antarctica, sighting the Trinity Peninsula in January 1820.
Timeline (1)Links (1)


Cross-listed in ClergyWriters

John Brereton

borndied
1572 cq1632 ca
a gentleman adventurer and chronicler of the 1602 voyage to the New World led by Bartholomew Gosnold. Brereton recorded the first European exploration of Cape Cod and its environs. His account, published in 1602, helped promote the possibilities of English colonization in what was then known as "the North part of Virginia" and would later become known as New...
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Links (1)


Jim Bridger

bornactivedied
1804, Mar 171822-18681881, Jul 17
was among the foremost mountain men, trappers, scouts and guides who explored and trapped the Western United States during the decades of 1820–1850, as well as mediating between native tribes and encroaching whites. He was of English ancestry, and his family had been in North America since the early colonial period.
Timeline (1)Links (1)


Charles Brodhead

aka: Broadhead
borndied
1772, Apr 201852
The Brodhead clan was one of high repute and station. Charles’ great-great-grandfather was Daniel Brodhead, a Captain in the Grenadiers under King Charles II and member of the English expedition that wrested control of New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664. Captain Brodhead settled in Ulster county and established an estate and family that flourished. Su...
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Timeline (2)Links (2)


Cross-listed in PiratesGovernance

Hendrik Brouwer

aka: Enrique Brower
bornactivedied
15811606-16431643, Aug 7
a Dutch explorer, admiral, and colonial administrator both in Japan and the Dutch East Indies. He is thought to first have sailed to the East Indies for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1606. In 1642, the VOC joined the Dutch West Indies Company in organizing an expedition to Chile to establish a base for trading gold at the abandoned ruins of Valdivia.
Links (1)Notes (1)


Cross-listed in Writers

James Bruce

bornactivedied
1730, Dec 141762-17901794, Apr 27
a Scottish traveller and travel writer who spent more than a dozen years in North Africa and Ethiopia, where he traced the origins of the Blue Nile. Also explored Algeria, the Middle East, and Egypt.
Links (1)


Etienne Brule

aka: Étienne Brûlé
bornactivedied
1592 ca1610-16331633, Jun ca
the first European explorer to journey beyond the St. Lawrence River in what is today Canada. Taking the lifestyle of the First Nations peoples, particularly the Hurons, Brûlé became an interpreter and guide for Samuel de Champlain, who later sent Brûlé on a number of exploratory missions. Among his many travels were explorations of Georgian Bay and Lake...
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Links (2)


Cross-listed in Physicians

Lafayette Bunnell

bornactivedied
1824, Mar 131849-1860s1903, Jul 21
an American physician, author, and explorer. He is most well known for his involvement with the Mariposa Battalion, the first non-Indians to enter Yosemite Valley. Bunnell led the battalion members in a vote to name the valley, and for this reason he is often credited as the person who named Yosemite. Bunnell was not otherwise important from a national persp...
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Links (1)


Johann Ludwig Burckhardt

aka: John Lewis, Jean Louis, Burckhardt
bornactivedied
1784, Nov 241809-18171817, Oct 15
a Swiss traveller, geographer, and orientalist. He wrote his letters in French and signed Louis. He is best known for rediscovering the ruins of the city of Petra in Jordan. Explored Middle East, Sudan
Links (1)


Cross-listed in Military

Robert O'Hara Burke

bornactivedied
1821, May 61841-18611861, Jun 28 ca
an Irish soldier and police officer, who achieved fame as an Australian explorer. He was the leader of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition, which was the first expedition to cross Australia from south to north, finding a route across the continent from the settled areas of Victoria to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The expedition party was well equipped, but ...
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Links (12)Notes (3)


Cross-listed in MilitaryWritersCartographers

Richard Burton

aka: Richard Francis
bornactivedied
1821, Mar 191842-18901890, Oct 20
a British explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He was known for his travels and explorations within Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures. According to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian and African la...
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Timeline (1)Links (15)


Cross-listed in Naval

Jose de Bustamante y Guerra

aka: José
bornactivedied
1759, Apr 11770-18171825, Mar 10
a Spanish naval officer, explorer, and politician. With Alessandro Malaspina, they proposed to the Spanish government a grand scientific expedition modeled after the voyages of James Cook. From 1789 to 1794 Bustamante and Malaspina sailed throughout the Pacific Oce...
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Links (1)

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