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Explorer John Cabot made a British claim to land in Canada, mistaking it for Asia, during his 1497 voyage on the ship Matthew.
John Cabot - Mini Biography (2:32)
Explorer and navigator John Cabot made a voyage in 1497 on the ship Matthew and claimed land in Canada—mistaking it for Asia—for King Henry VII of England.
Explorer Ferdinand Magellan, with the support of King Charles V of Spain, set out to circumnavigate the globe. He assembled a fleet of ships and despite huge setbacks, his own death included, proved that the world was round.
French navigator Jacques Cartier was sent by King Francis I to the New World in search of riches and a new route to Asia in 1534. His exploration of the St. Lawrence River allowed France to lay claim to lands that would become Canada.
French explorer Samuel de Champlain began exploring North America in 1603, establishing the city of Quebec in the northern colony of New France. He became the de facto governor of New France in 1620.
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Explorer and navigator John Cabot was born Giovanni Caboto in Italy around 1450. By 1495, he had moved to Bristol, England, with his family. He made a voyage in 1497 on the ship Matthew and claimed land in Canada—mistaking it for Asia—for King Henry VII of England.
"Sayled in this tracte so farre towarde the weste, that the Ilande of Cuba bee on my lefte hande, in manere in the same degree of longitude."
Italian sailor and explorer John Cabot was born Giovanni Caboto around 1450. In 1497, Cabot traveled by sea to Canada, where he made a claim to land for England, mistaking the North American land for Asia.
Cabot was the son of a spice merchant, Giulio Caboto, in Genoa. At age 11, his family moved to Venice, where he learned sailing and navigation from Italian seamen and merchants. In 1474, John Cabot married a girl named Mattea and eventually became the father of three sons: Ludovico, Sancto and Sebastiano. Sebastiano would later follow in his father’s footsteps, becoming an explorer in his own right.
In 1476, Cabot officially became a Venetian citizen and began conducting trade in the eastern Mediterranean. Records indicate that he got into financial trouble and left Venice as a debtor in November 1488. During this time, Cabot became inspired by the discoveries of Bartolomeu Dias and Christopher Columbus. Like Columbus, Cabot believed that sailing west from Europe was the shorter route to Asia. Hearing of opportunities in England, Cabot traveled there and met with King Henry VII, who gave him a grant to "seeke out, discover, and finde" new lands for England.
In early May of 1497, Cabot left Bristol, England, on the Matthew, a fast and able ship weighing 50 tons, with a crew of 18 men. Cabot and his crew sailed west and north under Cabot's belief that the route to Asia would be shorter from northern Europe than Columbus's voyage along the trade winds. On June 24, 1497, 50 days into the voyage, Cabot landed on the east coast of North America, though the precise location of this landing is subject to controversy. Some historians believe that Cabot landed at Cape Breton Island or mainland Nova Scotia. Others believe he may have landed at Newfoundland, Labrador or even Maine.
Though the Matthew's logs are incomplete, it is believed that John Cabot went ashore with a small party and claimed the land for the King of England. The ship sailed for England in July 1497 and arrived in Bristol on August 6, 1497. Cabot was soon rewarded with a pension of £20 and the gratitude of King Henry VII. In February 1498, he was given permission to make a new voyage to North America.
In May 1498, John Cabot departed from Bristol with five ships and a crew of 300 men. The ships carried ample provisions and small samplings of cloth, lace points and other "trifles," suggesting an expectation of fostering trade with indigenous people. En route, one ship became disabled and sailed to Ireland, while the other four ships continued on. From this point, there is only speculation as to the fate of the voyage and John Cabot. For many years, it was believed that the ships were lost at sea. More recently, however, documents have emerged that place Cabot in England in 1500, laying speculation that he and his crew actually survived the voyage. Historians have also found evidence to suggest that Cabot's expedition explored the eastern Canadian coast, and that a priest accompanying the expedition might have established a Christian settlement in Newfoundland. What can be said with some certainty is that John Cabot claimed North America for England, setting the course for England's rise to power in the 16th and 17th centuries.
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Throughout the centuries, brave explorers have fearlessly traveled the globe and beyond to discover new lands, people, animal species, riches and glory. Ferdinand Magellan of Portugal proved the world is round with his mission to sail around the world. His fellow countryman Vasco da Gama commanded the first European ship around the southern tip of Africa to reach India by sea. Norseman Leif Eriksson is regarded as the first European to reach North America, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus, who is credited with discovering the “New World” of the Americas. Juan Ponce de León scoured Puerto Rico and Florida in his quest for the fountain of youth. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark blazed new trails during their Corps of Discovery Expedition across the western half of the United States. Traveling to new heights of discovery were mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest, and U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. These intrepid explorers and more have made an indelible mark on human history. See all Explorers.
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