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Christopher Columbus, 1451-1506
[Mentioned in Science and Health, p. 120]
After the boat in which he sailed was attacked and destroyed off the coast of Portugal, Columbus, the Genoese, took up residence in Lisbon. In this center of oceanic undertakings, he supported himself by making charts. By the time he was 31 he was a master mariner, having sailed to the Arctic Circle and to the Gold Coast.
In Lisbon he conceived the plan of reaching Eastern Asia by sailing west. Failing to find support for his plan, he sought it in Spain, where for 6 years he fought against prejudice and apathy. Finally persuaded by the argument, "So little risk for so vast a gain," Isabella and Ferdinand named him admiral and signed a contract with him in 1492. In 3 months the 3 gaily painted square-rigged ships "Santa Maria," "Nina," and "Pinta" set sail. According to Columbus' reckoning (he underestimated the size of the world by 25 per cent), the fleet should have reached Japan about the thirtieth day, but by then no land had been sighted.
On October 9 Columbus promised that if land were not sighted within 3 days, he would turn back in compliance with the sailors' demands. Encouraged by the flocks of birds overhead, he followed them. On October 12, 33 days after his departure, he sailed into the bay of a little island off the Bahamas, which he named San Salvador. During the next 3 months Cuba and Haiti were discovered.
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