Happy Columbus Day, all – the day we celebrate the last man to discover America.

As most people know, Christopher Columbus was by no means the first person to discover America.

Aside from the early visitors and settlers of the Americas whose names are lost to history, and the well-known explorations of Erik the Red and his son Leif Erikson, there may well have been earlier visits from Europe, Africa, or China. It would be surprising if, in the 10,000 years prior to 1492, there weren’t dozens of “discoveries” of America by people from across the ocean.

But that doesn’t diminish the historical importance of Columbus one bit – on the contrary, it makes him all the more pivotal to the history of the world.  Because Columbus was the one, and only, last discoverer of America.

Before Columbus, the Americas were to the rest of the world at best a legend – a story of faraway islands.

After Columbus, the Americas were, definitively, discovered.  They were a known place, not a rumor.

And that only happened once.

One Response to “The last man to discover America”

  1. Bob Alexander Says:

    A scientist gets credited with a discovery when he publishes, even if someone else discovered it first.

    Columbus gets credited with discovering America because he publicized it much better than previous discoverers. The existence of the printing press helped – something Leif lacked.

    Columbus had other advantages: his backers were interested in trade, so they had a strong financial incentive to keep making the trip; sailing technology had improved since Erikson’s time (Erikson hopscotched his way to America, while Columbus booked a non-stop flight :-); Columbus’ discovery of the trade winds made the trip a lot easier.

    – Bob

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