Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Columbus, Christopher (1436-1506), a Genoese navigator, who is generally credited with the discovery of America. His father was a wool-comber, but the son went to sea at the age of fourteen, and led a somewhat adventurous life, taking part in sea-fights, and eventually arriving in Portugal, where he married the daughter of an Italian navigator. Here he studied the maps and charts of his father-in-law, and seems to have let his mind dwell upon the romantic stories then afloat of wondrous lands to be found out in the western seas. He travelled to the north as far as Iceland, and there he may have heard the stories of Norse adventurers, who had discovered lands to the west. However this may be, he had in 1474 formed the design of discovering a western passage to India, and cast around for someone to patronise and pay for the venture. For some time he did this in vain. Kings and nobles alike held aloof, and when he finally applied to Ferdinand and Isabella he was for a time unsuccessful, partly owing to the preoccupation of the king and queen, who were in the middle of the war with the Moors, and partly to Spanish jealousy. It was not till 1492 that he finally was able to set sail in the Santa Maria, accompanied by the smaller ships Pinta and Nina. On September 26th he started from the Canary Islands, and the trouble he encountered owing to the ignorance, superstition, and timidity of his crews, is matter of universal knowledge. On the 11th of October he saw a light ahead, and on the next day made one of the Bahamas, going on to Cuba and Hispaniola (now Hayti), where the Santa Maria ran aground and was lost. In September, 1493, the two remaining ships arrived on the same day in port, though they had lost sight of each other a month before. They brought back specimens of the productions of the newly-discovered lands in the shape of gold, plants, birds, animals, and six natives. Columbus was received with honour, being made Admiral of the Sea, and Grandee of Spain. In the autumn of the same year he set out upon his second voyage, in the course of which he discovered Dominica, and made an effort at colonising. But though a good and bold sailor, he was a poor coloniser, and a bad commander of men. He was much aided by his plucky brother Bartholomew. He returned to Spain in 1496, and incurred the anger of the queen for having enslaved the natives. In this respect he was no worse than Sir John Hawkins and other English adventurers of a later date. In 1498 he made his third voyage in which he penetrated to the mainland. Meantime the jealousy of the Spaniaids had made head against him, and through an overstraining of the royal commands, the governor of the colony sent the two brothers Columbus home in chains. The queen at once released the brothers, and received them back into favour, but the indignity had sunk into Christopher's heart, as he bitterly spoke of "the rewards of service," and he was never the same man again. In 1502-4 he made another voyage of exploration along the south coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and endured much hardship. He died at Valladolid in 1506. His remains were afterwards moved to Seville, and then, along with those of his son Diego, to Hispaniola, to be once again, at a much later date when Hayti became French, moved to Havana. Besides his brother Bartholomew, and his eldest son Diego, both of them men of mark, there was a brother Giacomo. Columbus seems to have been a curious mixture of enthusiastic dreamer and practical man, of almost ascetic devotee and intrepid mariner, a type not so rare, perhaps, then as now.