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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





1 article for "Magellan, Ferdinand"

Magellan, Ferdinand [Astro*Index]

(ma-jel'an) (1480?-1521) Portuguese explorer.

Born at Sabrosa, Tras-os-Montes; died Philippine Islands. Served the Portuguese court of John II (the king who turned down Columbus) for most of his life, went on expeditions to the East Indies, and was lamed in a battle in Morroco. Accused of trading with Moroccans (almost treason), he was dismissed from the armed services, in 1517, and denied a pension. Bittered by this action, he joined the Spanish service, and offered them a way to poach on Portuguese preserves. A dividing line drawn by Pope Alexander VI divided heathen lands (west to Spain, east to Portugal) but failed to encircle the Earth; with proper navigation, it might be possible to sail westward, stay on their side of the line, yet reach the East Indies. Given the command of 5 ships, in 1519, he set sail, moving down the eastern coast of South America, discovering the passage now known as the Strait of Magellan, and sighting the star- clouds in the southern hemisphere which we call the Magellanic Clouds. Although Magellan is, usually, remembered as the first to circumnavigate the Earth, he never completed the journey. He was killed in the Philippines by the natives. It was his expedition, or what was left of it, that deserves the honor. With only one of the original 5 ships remaining, Cano crossed the Indian Ocean, rounded the southern tip of Africa, and returned to Spain in 1522. Of scientific importance was the discovery of the Magellanic Clouds, proof that the size of the earth given by Eratosthenes was correct (and that Poseidonius and Ptolemy were wrong), and that only one sea (not seven) encircles the earth.

See also:
♦ Magellanic Clouds ♦ Earth, Size of


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine