Painted portrait of British explorer James Cook.

James Cook

(1728 - 1779)

At the age of forty in 1768, James Cook began the first of his three multiyear voyages in the Pacific Ocean. On his first trip, he allowed men of the Royal Society to track the transit of Venus, and he charted all of New Zealand. On his second trip, he circumnavigated the earth and, owing to his own innovative scurvy-prevention regimen, lost none of his men to the nutritional disorder. On his final trip in 1779, he surveyed some four thousand miles of the western North American coast before he was murdered on the island of Hawaii during a dispute with natives over a stolen boat. His body was cut to pieces and burned over a ceremonial fire to separate his flesh from his bones, which were then parceled out to local chiefs.

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