[[caption-width-right:220:[-Columbus probably looked nothing like this.-] ]]
A famous historical figure, known as the sailor who wanted to find an easier trade route from Europe to Asia (NOT to prove the Earth was round, contrary to popular belief) only to discover the Americas during his travels. As you probably know, he was not the first European to discover the Americas [[note]]The credit goes to Leif Erikson and the [[HornyVikings Vikings]] 500 years before Columbus. Ultimately their settlements failed and were largely forgotten until more recent times.[[/note]], but it was his efforts that led directly to the European exploration and colonization that shaped the Western Hemisphere into its current form. An inestimable boon for the nations of Europe. Which also left a legacy [[ThePurge that was worse]] for the [[UsefulNotes/NativeAmericans American indigenous natives]].
On his most famous voyage, the 1492 trans-atlantic trip in the ships ''Niņa'', ''Pinta'', and ''Santa Maria'', he was searching for a route to "India," which at the time meant Asia -- specifically, he was hoping to find Japan. When he finally reached land, all he could tell was that the natives were neither Japanese nor Chinese, and so he was at a loss to figure out where he really was. Figuring he'd landed on some previously-unknown part of Asia, he referred to the natives generically as "Indians," and the island chain as the "East Indies." (Today, we've corrected this second mistake, and refer to these islands as the ''West'' Indies.) Even at the end of his life, he never learned that he'd discovered an entirely new continent.
Nobody today is sure what he looked like; the picture here, painted after his death by someone who never met him, shouldn't be taken as fact. For one, he had auburn hair in his youth which would have turned white by the time he was the age depicted.
Columbus was (most likely) Genoese. He and his brother Bartholomew together conceived of an "enterprise of the Indies," a way to sail directly to the Orient without having to go through the Turkish-controlled land route or the very long route beyond Africa. Columbus, a relatively inexperienced sailor, argued that the world was smaller than what common scholarship held, and that Japan was very, very far east of China, which was in turn very, very far east of where it actually was. He was right on one count, though, that the "Easterly" winds off the coast of Africa could propel a sailing ship a great distance in relatively little time.
He went to Portugal in 1485 and presented his plan, along with a demand that he be made "Great Admiral of the Ocean," appointed governor of any lands he discovered, and received 10% of revenue derived from anything he found. The Portuguese flatly rejected his proposal, and the English simultaneously rejected a similar proposal made by his brother. Then Christopher went to the Spanish, who held a similar opinion but decided to keep him around by paying him not to go anywhere else. This was in 1489.
In 1492, hurting for cash after defeating Muslim Granada, Ferdinand and Isabella decided to give him what he wanted (although Isabella initially turned him down). Most likely, Ferdinand didn't think he'd come back.
Many historians have attributed Columbus for the European colonization of the Americas, which involves [[HegemonicEmpire many Europeans battling each other for colonies and land in the New World]], [[RapePillageAndBurn looting and destroying many tribes for gold and valuable resources]], [[AMillionIsAStatistic massacres of populations to take their land]], and [[CulturePolice forced destruction of native cultures]]. Although obviously, how many Europeans approached the New World and the Native American tribes varied. [[note]] The Spanish and the Portuguese pretty much are the worst with the in the indigenous population relations while the French never really sought to take control of the natives lands but instead [[ProudMerchantRace establishing peaceful trade with them]].[[/note]] Many countries celebrate Columbus Day on October 12th as an official holiday since the early 20th Century, even with some of its controversies surrounding what the anniversary of the event really involved.
Columbus's descendants hold the Spanish noble title Duke of Veragua, and the hereditary title of "Admiral of the Ocean Sea." Both the current Duke and his father were named Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) and the father was actually a naval officer, which means he was an Admiral even when he was a Lieutenant.
Oh, and he once got into an ''epic'' [[WebVideo/EpicRapBattlesOfHistory rap battle]] with [[Franchise/StarTrek Captain Kirk]].