Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal 1394-1460. His vision of sending merchantships around Africa to India in the 15th century would begin the Age of Discovery. It would also start the the race for colonies outside of Europe that would result in the great European colonial empires of the 19th & 20th centuries.
Bartholomew Dias 1550-1600. This explore from Portugal was the first European to round the Cape Horn of Africa. From this point on it would only be a matter of time before a sea trade route to India would be established.
Route of Dias around Africa.
Vasco de Gama, circa 1460-1524. First European to actually reach India by sea. Portugal, being first, would establish a profitable trade route with their colony in India that would last for three and a half centuries.
Vasco de Gama's first route to India.
Christopher Columbus, 1451-1506. The Italian explorer working for Spain, whose massive mistake changed the history of the World. He thought he was in India but actually discovered the massive Western Continents-"the New World." A fact he would never admit.
Artist impression of the Santa Maria, the flagship of Columbus and the first European ship lost in the Caribbean Sea.
Ferdinand Magellan, Portuguese by birth, but sailed for Spain, 1480-1521. Original leader of the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe.
Sir Francis Drake,1540-1596. Greatest English "Sea Dog" and first Englishman to circumnavigate the World.
The new and improved English "racing galleon." Faster and better armed than their Spanish contemporaries. An example of Queen Elizabeth Tudor and England's new ideas of quality vs quantity in the race to control the trade routes and growing European World wide empires.