James Cook, 1728-1779

Portrait

Biographical note

British explorer, navigator and cartographer.

Cook joined the British merchant navy as a teenager and joined the Royal Navy in 1755. He saw action in the Seven Years' War, and subsequently surveyed and mapped much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec. This helped bring Cook to the attention of the Admiralty and Royal Society, and led to his commission in 1766 as commander of HM Bark Endeavour for the first of three Pacific voyages.

In three voyages Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe. He mapped lands from New Zealand to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean in greater detail and on a scale not previously achieved. As he progressed on his voyages of discovery he surveyed and named features, and recorded islands and coastlines on European maps for the first time. He displayed a combination of seamanship, superior surveying and cartographic skills, physical courage and an ability to lead men in adverse conditions.

Cook was killed in Hawaii in a fight with Hawaiians during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific in 1779. He left a legacy of scientific and geographical knowledge which was to influence his successors well into the 20th century and numerous memorials worldwide have been dedicated to him.

© 2014 The University of Adelaide
Last Modified 16/02/2014
CRICOS Provider Number 00123M
find us on facebook

Service Charter | Copyright | Privacy | Disclaimer