First posted on June 26th 2003, last revised November 14th 2004






External Links : Biographies of Famous Spaniards; to the History of the Era of Discovery

For links on general biographical sources, go to Biographies Main Page

Discoverer's Web, in English
Who had gone before ?, chronological listing of telegram style notes on discoverors, discoveries, posted by Michael Dickinson
Explorers of Africa, from Enchanted Learning

Exploradores y viajeros por Espana, from Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, chronological list, in Spanish
Printed Reference : Biographies related to the History of Spanish Discovery and early Colonialism





Biographies of Dutch Discoverers and Colonial Administrators

Note : Discoverers of non-Spanish background, sailing on behalf of Castile/Spain, are here treated as Spanish.



Almagro, Diego de (c.1472-1538)
Castilian conquistador, arrived in Panama in 1514; in 1524 he supported Pizarro's plan to undertake an expedition against the Inca Empire and expected to become part of the enterprise. Accompanied Pizarro on the 1526 expedition. Joined Pizarro after Cajamarca; entered Cuzco in 1533, together with Pizarro. In 1535, Almagro, undertook an expedition into the southern provinces of the Inca Empire (northern Chile, -1537). Upon his return he challenged Pizarro's hold of Cuzco and took it by force (1537); in 1538 it was Almagro's turn to be defeated, and he was executed.

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Spanish language biography, from ArteHistoria
French language biography, from Les Navigateurs de la Renaissance


Alvarado, Pedro de -1541
Participated in the Conquest of Cuba in 1511, under Diego Velasquez. Accompanied Grijalva's expedition in 1518, then was an officer in Cortez' Conquest of the Aztec Empire 1519-1521. Undertook an expedition southward from Mexico into Central America (Guatemala 1524). In 1534, in support of Diego de Almagro, he landed in Peru, but was blocked by Benalcazar. Back in Guatemala, he quarreled with Cortez. Killed in 1541 while attacking an Indian camp.

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Spanish language biography, from ArteHistoria


Avila, Pedro Arias de, 1443-1531
Appointed Governor of Panama, where he arrived in 1514, finding Vasco Nunjez de Balboa de facto in command. Balboa (by now Avila's sin-in'law), on Panama's west coast, building ships in preparation for further expeditions, in 1519 was arrested on the order of de Avila, sentenced and executed. In 1519 he founded Panama City; originally party of Pizarro's Peruvian expeditions, withdrew in 1526.

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia, by Bruce Ruiz
Spanish language biography, from ArteHistoria


Balboa, Vasco Nunez de, 1475-1519
Arrived in Hispaniola, and on the coast of Panama in 1501. He returned to Hispaniola, then to flee debts, he made his way to Uraba; emerged as the unappointed leader of the colony in Darien (Panama); in 1513 he crossed the isthm of Panama and sighted the Pacific Ocean (so named by Magellan in 1521). In 1514 Pedro Arias de Avila arrived in Panama, as appointed governor; Balboa, on Panama's west coast, building ships in preparation for further expeditions, in 1519 was arrested on the order of de Avila, sentenced and executed.

English language biography, from DW, from Catholic Encyclopedia, from Enchanted Learning


Benalcazar, Sebastian de 1480-1551
Accompanied Columbus on his third voyage, accompanied Pizarro on his expedition that conquered Peru. Took Quito in 1533, founded Guyaquil, moved into s. Colombia (1535-1539), founded Cali. In 1541 appointed governor of Popayan. For the following decade, involved in infighting between factions of conquistadores; in 1550 convicted of murder; died of disease soon after.

English language biography, from Columbia Encyclopedia

Cabot, Sebastian 1474-1557
Son of Italian (Venetian) explorer Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), whom he accompanied on his journey to Newfoundland 1497. On behalf of King Carlos I. of Spain (= Emperor Charles V.), he was sent on a journey in a westerly direction, to the Moluccas; Cabot instead surveyed la Plata Bay (1527).

English language biography, from DW, from Catholic Encyclopedia


Cano, Juan Sebastian del , c.1476-1526
Participated in the expedition under Ferdinand Magellan attempting the circumnavigation of the world. After the death of Magellan (1521), del Cano commanded the expedition, arriving with the Victoria in Lisbon in 1522.

English language biography, from Columbia Encyclopedia

Columbus, Christopher , (It.: Christoforo Colombo, Sp.: Cristobal Colon) 1451-1506
Italian navigator, born Genoa, sailed for the Queen of Castile. Sailed in westerly direction to find a sea route to India, based on the concept of the earth being round; in 1492 he found an island he called San Salvador (Guanahani, Bahamas), and, further on, the Antilles (Caribbean). Convinced this to be islands located off India, he called the lands he found "India" summarily. He undertook four voyages 1492, 1493-1496, 1498-1500. 1502-1504.

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Links, from DW


Cortez, Hernan, (Hernando Cortes) 1485-1547
Arrived in the Antilles in 1504; charged by Cuban Governor Diego Velasquez with establishing contact with the Aztec Empire (1519). Cortez exceeded his authority and went on to conquer the Aztec Empire instead (1519-1521). In 1522 appointed Governor of New Spain (Mexico); his conduct in office was repeatedly investigated by Spanish commissioners. Initiated the further exploration of Central America.

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Timeline, links from DW


Federmann, Nikolaus, 1501-1542
German explorer in the service of the Welser brothers, bankers who had received Venezuela as a pawn from Emperor Charles V. (1528). Federmann arrived in the new World in 1530, lead an expedition in search of El Dorado in 1535, got into a competition over control of central Colombia with Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada; a 1539 arrangement quickly fell apart. Federmann returned to Spain to pursue his claim at court, unsuccessfully.

English language biography, from Columbia Encyclopedia
Klein-Venedig, from Deutsche Schutzgebiete, has portrait featuring Federmann; site in German


Grijalva, Juan de 1490-1527
Participated in the conquest of Cuba under Diego Velasquez in 1511. After the 1517 expedition to Yucatan under Francisco Hermandez de Cordoba, Juan de Grijalva in 1518 explored the Caribbean coast of Yucatan and Mexico.

Spanish language biography, from ArteHistoria
Website by Rose Hulman; from Discoverers Web


Irala, Domingo Martinez de, 1509-1556
Spanish conquistador. Arrived in the la Platea region with Pedro de Mendoza in 1535; co-founded Buenos Aires and Asuncion in 1536; was elected governor of Paraguay by the settlers; ruled by force.

English language biography, from Columbia Encyclopedia
Spanish language biography, from Literatura Argentina posted by Todo Argentina


Legazpi, Miguel Lopez de, 1524-1572
Spanish Conquistador. . Took command of the 1564-1565 expedition from Mexico to the Philippines. He began the comnquest on Cebu; in 1571, Manila was occupied.

English language biography, from Wikipedia

Magellan, Ferdinand, (Fernao Magelhaes), c.1480-1521
Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain; set out in 1519 on an attempt to circumnavigate the world. Passed the Magellan Straits on the southern tip of the American continent; then crossed the South Pacific in westerly direction. Lacking supplies, his crew suffered from famine until they reached Guam. On the Philippines, Magellan attempted to convert natives to Catholicism; got involved in regional wars, and was killed in a skirmish (1521). Sebastian del Cano completed the first circumnavigation in history (1522).

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia , from Mariners' Museum

Mendana de Neira, Alvaro, 1542-
Commanded a 1567 expedition in search of a gold-rich land in the southwest, mentioned in Inca tradition. Crossed the Pacific, found Society Islands, then Santa Isabel (Solomon Islands); explored the Solomons (Guadalcanal), turned north, past Wake, to North America. In 1595 he lead a second expedition, which found the Marquesas. Mendana died of Malaria; Pedro Fernandez de Quiros directed the fleet to Manila.

English language biography, from DW

Mendoza, Pedro de, 1487-1537
Spanish navigator, sailed to the La Plata Bay in 1535. Co-founded Buenos Aires. Was accompanied by Domingo Martinez de Irala, founder of Asuncion..

English language biography, from Columbia Encyclopedia
Spanish language biography, from Literatura Argentina posted by Todo Argentina


Ojeda, Alonso de, 1468-1515
Castilian navigator, accompanied Columbus on his second voyage 1493-1496. In 1499 he sailed out with Amerigo Vespucci; off the coast of Guyana they split, and Ojeda explored the coast of modern Venezuela and Colombia. Was treated with suspicion on Hispaniola, on the ground that he would have violated Columbus' privileges. Returned to Spain in 1500. A third expedition, intended to set up a colony, ended up in a mutiny, Ojeda sent back to Spain in chains; in Spain, he was acquitted. He again traveled to Hispaniola, from where he undertook a further expedition to the Colombian coast 1509-1511.

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia, by Bruce C. Ruiz

Pizarro, Francisco 1471-1541
Pizarro arrived in Urabi in 1509, joined the expedition under Vasco Nunez de Balboa which crossed the usthm of Panama in 1513; later he sided with Governor Pedro Arias de Avila against Balboa. From 1524 onward he undertook expeditions by ship southward along the Pacific Coast in search of the Inca Empire; in 1528-1529 he visited Spain to gain approval for his expedition; in 1532-1533 he conquered the Inca Empire. The last years of his life were filled with quarrels with other conquistadores (Almagro and his followers) over the spoils and with continued Inca resistance.

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia, by Bruce Ruiz


Ponce de Leon, Juan, 1460-1521
Accompanied Columbus on his second voyage; participated in the conquest of Hispaniola under Nicholas Ovando in 1502; conquered Boriquen (Puerto Rico) in 1508; was appointed governor; in 1513 set out on quest to find fountain of youth; landed near St. Augustine in Florida, the coast of which he explored; still he mistook Florida for an island. Returned to Puerto Rico; lead a second expedition to Florida in 1521; died of wounds inflicted by natives.

English language biography, from Catholic Encyclopedia, from DW, from Enchanted Learning


Quesada, Gonzalo Jimenez de, 1509-1576
Spanish conquistador. Arrived in Santa Marta (Colombia) in 1535, where he was supposed to serve as a judge. Lead an expedition southward into the interior, founded Bogota in 1538; an agreement with Federmann and Benalcazar in 1539 quickly fell apart. Quesada returned to Spain, was appointed Governor of El Dorado. Continued to explore the interior of Colombia, until his death.

English language biography, from DW

Quiros, Pedro Fernandez de (Qieiros) 1555-1614
Portuguese navigator sailing for Spain; participated in the 1595 Mendana de Nehra Pacific expedition. In 1605 he lead an expedition in the search of the Terra Australis (Land of the South); visited a number of islands, most notably the Solomon Islands (this explains the Spanish names of many of these islands). Returned from there to Acapulco, Mexico, where he arrived in 1606.

English language biography, from DW

Torres, Luis Vaez de, 1560- c.1613
Departed from Callao, Peru in 1606, under Pedro Fernandes de Quiros, crossed Pacific, got separated from de Quiros, passed Torres Strait separating Australia and New Guinea in 1606. Arrived in Manila in 1607.

English language biography, from DW

Velasquez de Cuellar, Diego, c. 1465-1524
Conquered Cuba in 1511, founded Santiago de Cuba (1514), Havana (1515); was appointed governor of Cuba. Dispatched expedition under Francisco Fernandez de Cordoba in 1517, charged with conquest of Yucatan (a goal which was not accomplished). Sent out Hernan Cortez in 1519 to establish contact with Aztec Empire; when it became apparent that Cortez exceeded his authority, Velasquez ordered the arrest of Cortez (also not accomplished) .

English language biography, from Wikipedia




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