James Cook (1728–1779)
Cook was the most important navigator of the Age of Enlightenment, a period that saw the mystery of the Southland resolved, the discovery of New Zealand, Hawaii, numerous Pacific Islands and confirmation that a Northwest Passage did not exist.
Cook was born in Yorkshire, England, the son of a Scottish labourer and apprenticeship for three years under John Walker, a Quaker coal-shipper of Whitby. In 1755 Walker offered him a command, but instead Cook joined HMS Eagle and within a month was master's mate. After two years on the Channel service, he was promoted master of the Pembroke, and in 1758 crossed the Atlantic in her and took part in the siege of Louisburg and the survey of the St Lawrence River that led to the capture of Quebec. Returning to England in 1762 he married Elizabeth Batts (1742-1832?) of Shadwell, whom he was to rarely see in the ensuing years at sea.
Cook then famously commanded three voyages that ended with his death on the island of Hawaii on 14 February 1779.