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Columbus, Christopher (1451-1506)
Although born in Genoa, Italy, Columbus settled in Portugal when in his twenties. He believed that Asia could be reached by sailing westward - at a time when the majority view was that the world was flat, and that he would fall off.
He eventually won the backing of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, and on 3rd August 1492 sailed from Palos with three small ships; the Nina, Pinta and his flagship the Santa Maria. On 12th October land was sighted and computers have generated that he made landfall on what is now San Salvador (Watling Island, in the Bahamas) on Samana Cay. Within a few weeks he had also reached Cuba and Haiti, before returning to Spain in 1493.
He made three more similar voyages (although the Santa Maria had been sunk on Christmas Day 1492 off Hispaniola - its remains being discovered in 1968).
This important explorer died in poverty in Valladolid (in central Spain), but is buried in Seville Cathedral.
Although Columbus was disappointed in his quest for gold, gemstones and spices; the foods he introduced to Europe slowly changed the complete staple diet of this continent and added much interest to that of Asia"s.
For example; the introduction of tomatoes, potatoes, chilis and peppers to the then known world - until the discovery of the America"s all these items were unknown.