Fernando de Magellan (1480 - April 27, 1521)

Fernando de Magellan was born 1480 in Saborosa, Portugal. He was son of the mayor of the town, Pedro Ruy de Magalhaes, and Alda de Mezquita. At the Court of Portugal, he learned astronomy and nautical sciences. Already at young age, he got enthusiastic about the then-current voyages of discovery.

In 1505, he took part in Francisco d'Almeida's expedition and until 1511, served in Portuguese India, then 1511-12 in Malacca. After returning to Portugal in 1512, he served in Morocco 1513-14, where he was severely wounded. Because of unfavorable reports, he fell in disgrace of the King, who refused to fund further endevors by him. After some years of studies and otherwise inactivity, Magellan went to Spain in 1517, married the daughter of Diego Barbosa, warden of the castle of Seville, and in 1518, got support by Charles I of Spain (later Emperor Charles V) for a voyage westward to reach the Moluccas.

With five vessels and about 265 men, the expedition started on September 20, 1519, which should later become the first circumnavigation of Earth, when the only remaining vessel and only 18 men returned to Sanlúcar on September 6, 1522 where it had started almost 4 years earlier.

Fernando de Magellan had died on April 27, 1521 during his discovery voyage, on the Philippines Island of Mactan.

Honors include naming a Venus Orbiter spacecraft after him; the Magellan mission was performed from May 4, 1989 (launch) to October 11, 1994 (end up in Venus' atmosphere), and was highly successful in mapping Venus and obtaining a lot of informations on this planet. Also, asteroid (4055) Magellan was named to his honor; this one had been discovered on February 24, 1985 at Palomar Observatory by E.F. Helin and provisionally designated 1985 DO2; a later independent observation was 1988 OG.

Magellan was the first "modern" European to report of the Magellanic Clouds, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), which are seen with the unaided eye if only the observer is located sufficiently south in geographic latitude.


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