Introduction - Famous Explorers
Who would you list as the most famous explorers in history? Often the great explorers of the Age of Discovery such as Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Hernan Cortes, or Ponce de Leon come to mind. These men were indeed great explorers who deserve a spot on the most famous explorers list; however there are many other explorers throughout history who have gained fame for their daring explorations.
It is the nature of mankind to explore, indeed before recorded history there were daring explorers who ventured out to see what lied beyond the mountain range or across the river. In fact this is how the world got populated. A great example that comes to mind of this ancient exploration includes the brave people who migrated across the land bridge that thousands of years ago joined Siberia to Alaska across the Bering Strait to populate the Americas.
On this site we will provide lists of kid-friendly facts about famous explorers from many different time periods and countries. All written in a kid-friendly format. There will be categories on famous Spanish explorers, Portuguese explorers, Italian explorers, English explorers, American explorers, and much more. Below you will find a list of what has been the motivation for exploration throughout the ages followed by a list of the top ten most famous explores (a list which is certainly up to debate and discussion).
List of What Motivates Famous Explorers
- Land - Many of the famous explorers set out to acquire new land for their country or the country that sponsored their journey. For example Leif Ericson was looking for new land to colonize when he became the first European to land in North America.
- Trade - the motivation of many famous explorers was to find new trade routes or trade partners. For example Christopher Columbus did not set out to find the "New World" he was seeking a westward trade route to the East Indies (the Indian subcontinent and Southeastern Asia).
- Challenge - Most famous explorers are motivated by the challenge of their journeys even when the purpose of the exploration is for trade or financial gain.
- Scientific - Exploration can be for the purpose of scientific information. Examples include moon travel and Charles Darwin's scientific expedition on the ship HMS Beagle.
- Riches - Exploration is often motivated by the pursuit of riches. A prime example are the Spanish Conquistadors such as Hernando De Soto and Juan Ponce de Leon who stole riches from the natives of the New World.
Top 10 Famous Explorers
- Leif Ericson (circa 970-1020 AD) - this amazing Viking explorer is the first European to discover America (500 years before Christopher Columbus).
- Marco Polo (circa 1254-1324 AD) - famous for his exploration of Central Asia and China.
- Christopher Columbus (1451-1506 AD) - is credited with opening up the New World to European colonization.
- Bartolomeu Dias (circa 1451-1500 AD) - was the first European to sail around the southern tip of Africa.
- Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512 AD) - is known for exploring the "New World". America's name is derived from his name.
- Juan Ponce de Leon (1474-1521 AD) - led the first expedition to Florida of any European.
- Ferdinand Magellan (circa 1480-1521 AD) - this famed Portuguese explorer was the first to circumnavigate the world.
- Hernando De Soto (circa 1497-1542 AD) - was a Spanish explorer famous for leading an expedition deep into North America. He is believed to be the first European to cross the Mississippi River.
- Francis Drake (circa 1540-1596 AD) - was a famous English captain who led the second circumnavigation of the earth.
- Samuel de Champlain (1574-1635 AD) - was a French navigator known for founding New France (a large area of North America colonized by France beginning in early 16th century) and Quebec City.