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Columbus, Christopher(ca. 1451–1506)

  • By: Santa Arias
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Christopher Columbus (or Colón in Spanish) is widely held to be the first European to “discover” the New World of the Americas, which was a major turning point in world history. In 1484, while still in Portugal, Columbus's challenge was not about the shape of the Earth but about the distance needed to travel to the Indies and the Spice Islands. Columbus's miscalculations came from his reading of Ptolemy, who declared each degree of the Earth to be 50 mi. (miles) and the total circumference to be 18,000 mi. In addition to classical sources, Columbus read and annotated The Travels of Marco Polo (1298), The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (1371), Pius II's Historia Rerum Ubique Gestarum (1477), Pierre d'Ailly's Imago Mundi (1480–1483), and the ...

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