Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama (1460 or 1469?-December 24, 1524) was a Portuguese sailor. He was the first European who went to India through the Cape of Good Hope, the southern end of Africa. He went to India three times by ship.
His exact date of birth was unknown but he was said to have been a knight in the 1490s at Sine, Portugal.
On July 8, 1497 four ships (the São Gabriel, the São Rafael, the Berrio, and a storage ship of unknown name) left Lisbon, and his first trip to India began. Before him, no European had sailed past South Africa, even though another Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias had already been that far. Since it was almost Christmas time, da Gama's crew gave the coast they were passing the name Natal (meaning "Christmas" in Portuguese), a name it keeps today.
By January, they had reached modern-day Mozambique, a coastland of East Africa controlled by Arabs as part of the Indian Ocean's network of trade. They were chased away by an angry crowd who discovered they were not Muslims, and continued north to Kenya. There, at Malindi, da Gama was able to employ a pilot from India, who brought the Portuguese the rest of the way to Calicut (the exact Malayalam name is Kozhikode) on the southwest coast of India on May 20, 1498. He left a few Portuguese in Calicut, and was asked by the ruler of that city to leave everything he owned too, but he escaped and returned to Portugal in September 1499.
He sailed on his next trip in 1502, after he found out that the people of Calicut had killed the Portuguese he had left behind. On this trip, he plundered all the Arab and Indian ships he found in the Indian Ocean, then went on to Calicut and took over that city, capturing much wealth. This made the King of Portugal very happy with him.
He went on one last trip in 1524, to be the viceroy (governor) of the colony that the Portuguese had in India by that time, but he died soon after he got there on Christmas Eve.