Explorers Teacher Guide to Famous Explorers

Explorers have helped expand the horizons of mankind in more ways than one - they are the people who have gone to places as yet undiscovered and unexplored. They have made these new places physically open to new voyagers and by bringing back stories of these new places, they have opened the minds of people to new adventures and excitement.

One of the earliest voyagers whose name comes up in all discussions of explorers is Marco Polo (1254-1324). This Italian traveler and adventurer visited China and explored Asia and his notes from his travel were for years the main source of information for many in the Western world.

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) who discovered the Americas on his voyage to find a new path to the East Indies literally rewrote the history of the World. He opened the New World to the Old World and many good and bad things stemmed from that significant journey.

Most of the dramatic discoveries in terms of new lands and cultures happened in the 15th through the 17th century and at this time many European monarchs funded the trips of explorers. The hope was that the explorers would find new paths to wealth and glory. There are several famous explorers from this period. Vasco da Gama (1469-1524) and Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) from Portugal and Italy helped their respective monarchs by establishing new paths to two different corners of the world. Then there were men like Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) and Sir Francis Drake (1540-1597) who re-established the ground rules of sea travel and adventure by sailing around the world. The Spaniard Hernando Cortes (1485-1547) is well-known for having marched across Mexico and having taken on the Aztec Empire successfully. The Englishmen Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), Henry Hudson (1565-1611) and French explorers Jacques Cartier (1491-1557), Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) and Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635) are particularly famous in the context of the United States and Canada as they helped establish some of the early colonies in these countries.

Much as the exploration of new lands lead to the expansion of the world and the breaking down of boundaries in the earlier centuries, the 20th century saw the dismantling of the air and space boundary and some the men and women who participated in these early space travels are great explorers also. Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974), who handled the first successful flight across the Atlantic Ocean, and Amelia Earhart (1897-1937?) are famous pioneers of air travel. Neil Armstrong (1930-), as the first man to set foot on the moon, and Valentina Tereshkova (1937-), as the first woman to be in space are, are some of the most noteworthy space explorers in human history.

The South and North Pole have also drawn many an explorer. These places have extreme climatic conditions. The people who have travelled in these places have needed extreme courage and determination. Norway's Roald Amundsen (1872-1928?) was the first man to reach the South Pole. American Robert Edwin Peary (1856-1920) was the first to reach the North Pole with his assistant Matthew Henson (1866-1955).

These men and women have significantly contributed to the expansion of our idea of the world.


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