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Hernando de Alarcón. Engraving, c. 1791. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99997).

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Alarcón, Hernando de (fl. 1540–1541), Spanish explorer, , is believed to have been born in Trujillo, Spain. The names of his parents and the circumstances and year of his birth are all unknown. The only documented period of his life is 1540–1541, when he acted in response to the commands of Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain (Mexico). In the spring of 1540 Mendoza directed Alarcón to sail north from Acapulco, Mexico, to support the land explorations of ...

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Álvarez de Pineda, Alonso (?–1520), ship captain and explorer, is presumed to have been born in Spain, although neither his place of birth nor the names of his parents are known. In the spring of 1519 Álvarez de Pineda was commissioned by Francisco de Garay, Spanish governor of Jamaica, to explore the still unknown northern Gulf Coast between the discoveries of ...

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James Markham Ambler. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B01766).

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Ambler, James Markham Marshall (30 December 1848–30 October 1881), naval surgeon and explorer, was born in Markham, Virginia, the son of Richard Cary Ambler, a physician, and Susan Marshall. At age sixteen Ambler became a volunteer in the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry. He studied a premedicine curriculum at Washington College in 1865–1867 and then entered the University of Maryland. After acquiring a medical degree in 1870, he practiced in Baltimore until his appointment as an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Navy. During 1874–1875, he was stationed in the North Atlantic. In 1877 he joined the staff of the Naval Hospital at Norfolk, Virginia....

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Andrews, Roy Chapman (26 January 1884–11 March 1960), explorer and zoologist, was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, the son of Charles Ezra Andrews, a wholesale druggist, and Cora May Chapman. As a young boy Andrews resolved “to be an explorer, to work in a natural history museum, and to live out of doors” ( ...

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Anza, Juan Bautista de (07 July 1736–19 December 1788), military commander, explorer, and governor, was born in the presidio of Fronteras, Sonora, Mexico, the son of Juan Bautista de Anza, commandant of the post since 1719, and María Rafaela Becerra Nieto; his grandfather was commandant of Janos presidio, Chihuahua. Anza’s father was killed in combat in 1739, but Anza continued in the family tradition, and on 1 December 1752 entered the militia at Fronteras. On 1 July 1755 he was promoted to lieutenant at Fronteras, and, after participating in Indian campaigns in Sonora, he rose in 1760 to the rank of captain and commander of the presidio at Tubac (in present-day Arizona). On 24 June 1761 he married Ana María Pérez Serrano of Arizpe, Sonora, but no children were born of the union....

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Argall, Sir Samuel (1580–24 January 1626), English explorer and colonial leader in early Virginia, was baptized at East Sutton, Kent, England, on 4 December 1580, the son of Richard Argall, a gentry landowner, and Mary Scott, daughter of a wealthy knight. As the eighth son and twelfth child of a prominent family, Argall neither had the luxury of living as a landed gentleman, nor the necessity of forging a career without influential kin connections in Kent and London....

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Beltrami, Giacomo Constantino (1779–06 January 1855), explorer, was born in Bergamo, Italy, the son of Giovanni Battista Beltrami, a Venetian customs official, and Margherita Carozzi. His early career was formed by the Napoleonic presence in northern Italy. Enamored of the ideals of the French Revolution and an admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte, Beltrami joined the militia of the Cisalpine Republic in 1796 and rose to become a vice inspector of armies. In 1807 he became chancellor of the Department of Justice of Parma and served as a judge until 1813. As the Napoleonic empire began to crumble, Beltrami retired from the bench and became a member of the Florentine salon of Louise Maximilienne Caroline, the countess of Albany and the widow of Charles Edward Stuart, better known as the “Young Pretender” or “Bonnie Prince Charlie.” Beltrami also forged important relationships with Countess Giulia Spada de Medici and Countess Geronima Compagnoni....

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Bering, Vitus Jonassen ( August 1681–08 December 1741), explorer, was born in Horsens, Denmark, the son of Jonas Svendsen, a customs inspector, and Anne Petersdatter. Her family included the distinguished poet Vitus Pedersen Bering; young Vitus was named for him. Bering’s half-brother Svend, given the choice between colonial service and prison after he participated in riots, chose colonial service and sailed for India in April 1696; Vitus was along as ship’s boy....

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Hiram Bingham Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99525).

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Bingham, Hiram (19 November 1875–06 June 1956), explorer, was born Hiram Bingham III in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Hiram Bingham (1831–1908) and Clarissa Minerva Brewster, missionaries. Bingham’s family assumed he would constitute the third generation of missionary service to the natives of the south Pacific and constantly pressured him to live the godly life. His few efforts as a missionary literally made him sick, and he seems to have had little interest in the salvation of the natives. Bingham (he appears to have dropped the III about the time his father died) instead sublimated the family’s missionary zeal into a broad variety of interests....

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Block, Adriaen (1610–1624), Dutch mariner, explorer, and trader, was most likely born in Holland, but nothing is now known of his place of birth, parents, early education, or marital status. It is thought that he studied law but soon felt eager to go to sea. His opportunity came after ...

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Bonneville, Benjamin Louis Eulalie de (14 April 1796–12 June 1878), explorer and army officer, was born in or near Paris, France, the son of Nicolas de Bonneville, a writer-editor, and Margaret Brazier. During the French Revolution Bonneville’s father was prominent in the Cercle Social...

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Bradley, Abraham, Jr. (21 February 1767– May 1838), public administrator and topographer, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Abraham Bradley, a public officer, and Hannah Baldwin. Bradley grew up in Litchfield, graduated from Tapping Reeve’s well-known law school, and was admitted to the bar in 1791. For a brief period he practiced law in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, where he also served as a judge. During this time he met and married Hannah Smith, with whom he had eight children. Though Bradley possessed an excellent knowledge of the law, he did not find legal work congenial because it called for a good deal of public speaking, a skill that he never acquired....

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Brainard, David Legg (21 December 1856–22 March 1946), soldier and Arctic explorer, was born in Norway, New York, the son of Alanson Brainard and Maria Legg, farmers. He attended public school in Norway until age ten, when the family moved to the John Corp farm at Freetown, New York, where his father also operated a dairy. Brainard attended the state normal school in Cortland....

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Brewer, William Henry (14 September 1828–02 November 1910), explorer-scientist and agriculturist, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, the son of Henry Brewer and Rebecca DuBois, farmers. Brewer grew up on a farm in Enfield, New York. From 1848 to 1850 he studied scientific agriculture at the School of Applied Chemistry at Yale under ...

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Bridger, James (17 March 1804–17 July 1881), fur trapper and trader, explorer, and scout, was born in a tavern near Richmond, Virginia, the son of James Bridger, a surveyor and innkeeper, and Chloe Tyler, a barmaid. Bridger and his family moved in about 1812 to a farm near St. Louis, where, on being orphaned five years later, he became a blacksmith’s apprentice. In 1822 he responded to an advertisement calling for a hundred able-bodied young men to join a fur-trapping expedition, lasting from one to three years, up to the headwaters of the Missouri River. The organizers of the expedition were ...

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Bridgman, Herbert Lawrence (30 May 1844–24 September 1924), newspaper executive and explorer, was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Baxter Bridgman and Mary Nutting. Educated at local schools and at Amherst College, from which he graduated in 1866, Bridgman received a master’s degree in English from Amherst three years later....

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Brierton, John (1572–1619), explorer and historian, whose name was sometimes spelled Brereton, was born in Norwich, Norfolk, England, the son of Cuthbert Brierton, a dealer in textile fabrics, and Joan Howse. He was educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, from which he earned a B.A. in 1592–1593 and an M.A. in 1596. In 1598 he became an Anglican deacon and entered the priesthood later the same year. His first curacy was in Lawshall, Suffolk. While there he met a family named Bacon, members of which were cousins of ...