Kathleen A. Deagan
Columbus's voyages of exploration have been compared with good reason to the first explorations of space in the twentieth century. Despite the great changes in technology and society that took place between those two types of exploration, they had a comparable impact on their times. The first major transatlantic explorations and the first space exploration altered and intensified people's understanding of the world in which they live and their place in it. Both also resulted in an explosion of technological advances and scientific inquiries.
The impacts of the encounter between Old World and New were most immediate and devastating to the inhabitants of the Americas. The Spaniards, with a more effective technology, introduced new forms of social control and organization as well as new plants, animals, and methods of using the land that often had great ecological impact. The most visible and tragic result was the terrible decimation of the native American population as a result of disease. As might be the case in any encounter with an alien life form, there was no immunity on either side to the common diseases of the other, and for the Caribbean Indians, who were the first to greet the Europeans, these diseases resulted in almost complete extinction within 50 years. of contact.