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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





1 article for "Columbus, Christopher"

Columbus, Christopher [Astro*Index]

(1451-1506) Italian explorer. Probably born at Genoa, Italy; died at Valladolid, Spain.

Always wrote in Spanish or in Spanishized Latin. Married the daughter of a distinguished Italian navigator. His imagination enflamed by reading about the wonders of the Indies given in a book by Marco Polo, Columbus believed that the circumference of the Earth was only about 18,000 miles, an opinion reinforced by his visit with the map-maker, Toscanelli (in 1481), not that the Earth was flat. His attempt to gain funds from the Portuguese king, John II, were to no avail; the king's geographers were far more experienced (and correct) and they rejected the Columbus' claim that of only 3000 miles to Asia. After being rejected at Genoa also, he found a sympathetic ear with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, of Spain, who had just triumphed over the last of Muslim rule on the penninsula. With modest financing and a crew gathered from prisoners, he set sail with three small ships. He noted the change in the direction of the compass needle, but kept this knowledge from his crew, fearing they might panic. The expansion of knowledge realized from his voyages, particularly discovery of large land masses which were unknown to Aristotle and Ptolemy, did much to stimulate the birth of the forthcoming Scientific Revolution.


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine