Gilbert, Sir Humphrey

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Gilbert, Sir Humphrey

Sir Humphrey Gilbert, 1537?–1583, English soldier, navigator, and explorer; half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh. Knighted (1570) for his service in the campaigns in Ireland, he later (1572) served in the Netherlands. Convinced of the existence of a Northwest Passage, he explained his theories in his famous Discourse (ed., with some additions, by George Gascoigne in 1576), which inspired the voyages of Martin Frobisher and John Davis and for many years motivated English exploration in the northern regions. In 1578, Gilbert was granted a patent by Queen Elizabeth I to found colonies in America and other lands. His first expedition, undertaken the same year, failed completely, but on his second voyage (1583) he reached Newfoundland. Entering the harbor of present-day St. John's, he took possession of the region in the name of the queen and assumed authority as governor over the colony of fishermen there. Still in search of the Northwest Passage, he explored to the southwest. After losing one ship, among other disasters, he decided to return to England; however, the small vessel carrying Gilbert was lost in a storm in the Azores. The narrative of Gilbert's voyage by Edward Hayes is included with other documents in Sir Humfrey Gylberte and His Enterprise (ed. by Carlos Slafter, 1903, repr. 1967).

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