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Overseas Exploration during Age of Discovery and Scientific Exploration - interesting Overview with links

Uwek

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The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration (approximately from the beginning of the 15th century until the end of the 18th century), is an informal and loosely defined term for the period in European history in which extensive overseas exploration emerged as a powerful factor in European culture and which was the beginning of globalization. It also marks the rise of the period of widespread adoption in Europe of colonialism and mercantilism as national policies. Many lands previously unknown to Europeans were discovered by them during this period, though most were already inhabited. From the perspective of many non-Europeans, the Age of Discovery marked the arrival of invaders from previously unknown continents.

Global exploration started with the Portuguese discoveries of the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores in 1419 and 1427, the coast of Africa after 1434 and the sea route to India in 1498; and from the Crown of Castile (Spain), the trans-Atlantic voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas between 1492 and 1502 and the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1519–1522. These discoveries led to numerous naval expeditions across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, and land expeditions in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia that continued into the late 19th century, and ended with the exploration of the polar regions in the 20th century.

European overseas exploration led to the rise of global trade and the European colonial empires, with the contact between the Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa) and the New World (the Americas and Australia) producing the Columbian Exchange, a wide transfer of plants, animals, food, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases and culture between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. This represented one of the most significant global events concerning ecology, agriculture and culture in history. The Age of Discovery and later European exploration allowed the global mapping of the world, resulting in a new worldview and distant civilizations coming into contact, but also led to the propagation of diseases that decimated populations not previously in contact with Eurasia and Africa and to the enslavement, exploitation, military conquest and economic dominance by Europe and its colonies over native populations. It also allowed for the expansion of Christianity throughout the world: with the spread of missionary activity, it eventually became the world's largest religion.

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Map with the main travels of the Age of Discovery. See details in expandable table:

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Maritime exploration in the Age of Discovery
From the early 15th century to the early 17th century the Age of Discovery had, through Spanish and Portuguese seafarers, opened up southern Africa, the Americas (New World), Asia and Oceania to European eyes: Bartholomew Dias had sailed around the Cape of southern Africa in search of a trade route to India; Christopher Columbus, on four journeys across the Atlantic, had prepared the way for European colonisation of the New World; Ferdinand Magellan had commanded the first expedition to sail across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to complete the first circumnavigation of the Earth. Over this period colonial power shifted from the Portuguese and Spanish to the Dutch and then the British and French. The new era of scientific exploration began in the late 17th century as scientists, and in particular natural historians, established scientific societies that published their researches in specialist journals. The British Royal Society was founded in 1660 and encouraged the scientific rigour of empiricism with its principles of careful observation and deduction. Activities of early members of the Royal Society served as models for later maritime exploration. Hans Sloane (1650–1753) was elected a member in 1685 and travelled to Jamaica from 1687 to 1689 as physician to the Duke of Albemarle (1653–1688) who had been appointed Governor of Jamaica. In Jamaica Sloane collected numerous specimens which were carefully described and illustrated in a published account of his stay. Sloane bequeathed his vast collection of natural history 'curiosities' and library of over 50,000 bound volumes to the nation, prompting the establishment in 1753 of the British Museum. His travels also made him an extremely wealthy man as he patented a recipe that combined milk with the fruit of Theobroma cacao(cocoa) he saw growing in Jamaica, to produce milk chocolate. Books of distinguished social figures like the intellectual commentator Jean Jacques Rousseau, Director of the Paris Museum of Natural History Comte de Buffon, and scientist-travellers like Joseph Banks, and Charles Darwin, along with the romantic and often fanciful travelogues of intrepid explorers, increased the desire of European governments and the general public for accurate information about the newly discovered distant lands.

One of the earliest French expeditions on the coasts of Africa, South America and through the Strait of Magellan was made by a squadron of French men-of-war under the command of M. de Gennes in 1695–97. The young French explorer, engineer and hydrographer François Froger described this expedition in his A Relation of a Voyage (1699).



 

Uwek

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The era of European and American voyages of scientific exploration followed the Age of Discovery and were inspired by a new confidence in science and reason that arose in the Age of Enlightenment. Maritime expeditions in the Age of Discovery were a means of expanding colonial empires, establishing new trade routes and extending diplomatic and trade relations to new territories, but with the Enlightenment scientific curiosity became a new motive for exploration to add to the commercial and political ambitions of the past. See also List of Arctic expeditions and List of Antarctic expeditions.

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HMS Dolphin at Tahiti in 1767

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The Astrolabe on an ice floe – 6 February 1838

Maritime exploration in the Age of Enlightenment
By the 18th century maritime exploration had become safer and more efficient with technical innovations that vastly improved navigation and cartography: improvements were made to the theodolite, octant, precision clocks, as well as the compass, telescope, and general shipbuilding techniques. From the mid-18th century through the 19th century scientific missions mapped the newly discovered regions, brought back to Europe the newly discovered fauna and flora, made hydrological, astronomical and meteorological observations and improved the methods of navigation. This stimulated great advances in the scientific disciplines of natural history, botany, zoology, ichthyology, conchology, taxonomy, medicine, geography, geology, mineralogy, hydrology, oceanography, physics, meteorology etc. – all contributing to the sense of "improvement" and "progress" that characterized the Enlightenment. Artists were used to record landscapes and indigenous peoples, while natural history illustrators captured the appearance of organisms before they deteriorated after collection. Some of the worlds finest natural history illustrations were produced at this time and the illustrators changed from informed amateurs to fully trained professionals acutely aware of the need for scientific accuracy.

By the middle of the 19th century all of the world's major land masses, and most of the minor ones, had been discovered by Europeans and their coastlines charted. This marked the end of this phase of science as the Challenger Expedition of 1872–1876 began exploring the deep seas beyond a depth of 20 or 30 meters. In spite of the growing community of scientists, for nearly 200 years science had been the preserve of wealthy amateurs, educated middle classes and clerics. At the start of the 18th century most voyages were privately organized and financed but by the second half of the century these scientific expeditions, like James Cook's three Pacific voyages under the auspices of the British Admiralty, were instigated by government. In the late 19th century, when this phase of science was drawing to a close, it became possible to earn a living as a professional scientist although photography was beginning to replace the illustrators. The exploratory sailing ship had gradually evolved into the modern research vessels. From now on maritime research in new European colonies in America, Africa, Australia, India and elsewhere, would be carried out by researchers within the occupied territories themselves.


 
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