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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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James Cook

COOK, James, navigator, born in Matron, Yorkshire, England, 28 October, 1728; killed in the Sandwich islands, 14 February, 1779. His father was an agricultural laborer and farm bailiff, and, owing to his poverty, the education of the son was limited. In his thirteenth year the future navigator was apprenticed to a haberdasher in Staiths. a little fishing town near Whitby. His father dying, and the lad quarrelling with his master, his indentures were given up, when he engaged himself as cabin-boy in a coasting vessel, and afterward became master of a sloop. In 1755 he shipped in the "Eagle," of the royal navy, and was speedily promoted to the quarter-deck. Having been master successively of the sloops "Grampus" and " Garland," in 1759 he had his master's rank confirmed by the admiralty, and was appointed to the " Mercury," a frigate belonging to the squadron sent out to co-operate with General Wolfe at Quebec. Cook piloted the boats of the squadron to the attack of Montmorency, and conducted the debarkation of the troops for the assault on the heights of Abraham. He was employed to take hydrographic surveys of the St. Lawrence between Orleans and the north shore, as well as the survey of the most dangerous parts of the River below Quebec, and performed the task in the very face of the French encampment, afterward publishing a chart of the River and channels from Quebec to the sea. Being promoted to the flag-ship " Northumberland," he made use of his leisure to study mathematics and astronomy, in 1762 he was present at the recapture of Newfoundland, atter which he returned to England. In addition to the charts of the St. Lawrence; he published several others, and, while on one of the Burgeo islands near Cape Ray, observed an eclipse of the sun. The record of his observations, published in the " Philosophical Transactions," showed an accuracy that gave him a high reputation as an astronomer. Early in 1763 he accompanied Captain Greaves to survey the coast of Newfoundland, and in the following year sailed with Sir Hugh Pallisser as marine surveyor of that coast and of Labrador. When the Royal society obtained the consent of the king to fit out an expedition for the purpose of observing the transit of Venus in the south Pacific. Cook was chosen to command the expedition, and authorized to prosecute geographical researches in the southern seas. He received a royal commission as lieutenant, chose the " Endeavor," of 370 tons, as the expedition ship, and sailed, 23 August, 1768, from Plymouth. On 13 April, 1769, Lieutenant Cook reached Otaheite. where he erected an observatory, and the necessary astronomical observations were made. He then sailed in quest of the great continent at that time supposed to exist near the south pole, and reached New Zealand, which had remained unexplored since the time of its first discovery. Cook first saw the narrow strait that divides the island. His attempts to penetrate to the interior of either of the islands were thwarted by the continued hostility of the natives, and he contented himself with a voyage of six months' duration around the coast. From New Zealand he proceeded to Australia, took possession of the coast about Botany bay in the name of the king of Great Britain, 28 April, traced 1,300 miles of coastline, and proved the entire separation of that island and Papua. After various escapes from shipwreck and native hostility, he sailed for New Guinea, thence to Batavia, where his ship, shattered and disabled, put in for repairs. Cook finally reached England, 11 June, 1771, having circumnavigated the globe and fulfilled the objects of the expedition. On 29 August, following his arrival, he was raised to the rank of captain in the navy. The great southern continent was now supposed to lie nearer the pole. and to settle this point, it was determined to send out another expedition. Two ships, the "Resolution," of 462 tons and 112 men, commanded by Cook, and the " Adventure," of 336 tons and 81 men, commanded by Tobias Furneaux, sailed from Plymouth, 13 July, 1772, with instructions to "circumnavigate the whole globe in high southern latitudes, making traverses from time to time into every part of the Pacific ocean which had not undergone previous investigation, and to use his best endeavors to resolve the much-agitated question of a southern continent." The expedition reached Madeira on the 29th, and, after touching at the Cape of Good Hope, explored the specified latitudes, but without discovering land. After sailing over 3,660 leagues, reaching lat. 71° 10' S., in lon. 106° 54' W., and being out of sight of land 117 days, Cook became satisfied that no land existed within the limits of his researches, and sailed for New Zealand. After wintering among the Society islands, he examined the waters eastward of his former cruise, between lat. 60° and 70°; then explored the ocean between lat. 43° and 56°, from Easter island to the New Hebrides, discovered and named New Caledonia. and returned by way of the Cape of Good Hope to England, arriving 30 July, 1775. He was promoted to a post-captaincy on 9 August, 1775, appointed a captain of Greenwich hospital, chosen a member of the Roval society, 29 February, 1776, and received the Copleian gold medal for the best experimental paper of the year. In this paper he embodied an account of the successful method of preserving the health of men at sea, adopted by him as the result of his researches into the nature and use of anti-scorbutic medicines. A reward of £20,000 having been offered for the discovery of a northwest passage, Capt. Cook volunteered to take charge of an expedition to ascertain its practicability by making the attempt by way of Bering strait. He sailed from Plymouth, 12 July, 1776, with the " Resolution" and "Discovery," the latter under the command of Capt. Charles Clerke. After going as far north as lat. 65° in an endeavor to find a passage to the Atlantic, Capt. Cook turned his attention to the equatorial Pacific for the winter, discovering several small islands and groups, then bore away to the Friendly islands, where he cruised for several months. In January, 1778, he set out again for the north, and on his way discovered and circumnavigated a group which he named the Sandwich islands, in honor of the Earl of Sandwich. He reached the coast of America in March, sailed up a sound since known as Cook's inlet, and, finding no passage through, set out for Bering strait, which he reached early in the summer of 1778, but was stopped by an impassable barrier of ice. Having carefully surveyed the Aleutian group, and determined the most westerly point of America and its distance, he reached the point still known by the name he gave it, Icy cape, 18 August, 1778, and did not turn back till the end of the month, having found it impossible to proceed. Returning to the Sandwich islands to prepare for another attempt northward the next year, he discovered Hawaii, the largest of the group, and Maul. He cruised about Hawaii several weeks, and found the natives peaceably disposed but addicted to stealing. One of the boats having been stolen on the night of 13 February, 1779, Cook determined to seize the person of the king and hold him until the boat should be returned or reparation made. With a lieutenant and nine men he went on shore for the purpose on 14 February He succeeded in bringing the king nearly to the boats, when the chieftain's suspicions were aroused and he refused to embark. His wives, who were near at hand, set up a lamentation, and a shot from one of the boats, fired to prevent a canoe leaving the bay, accidentally killed a chief. The barbarians, aroused to fury. rushed upon Cook and his men. Four of the marines attending him were instantly killed, the rest were obliged to retreat to the boats, and Cook, who was the last to retire, was overpowered and slain. His body and those of the marines were afterward cut up by the savages and probably devoured, only the bones of the great navigator being recovered seven days later, and buried in the sea. The account of Cook's first voyage was published under the direction of Dr. Hawkesworth; his second was chronicled by himself; while the third was prepared from his journal by Lieutenant King. The charts and plates illustrating the last were executed at the expense of the government, and half the profits of the work were given to his family. A narrative of the third voyage was also published in Hartford, Connecticut, by John Ledyard, who accompanied the expedition. Distinguished honors were paid to his memory, and a medal in commemoration of him was struck by order of the Royal society. His widow received a pension of £200 per annum, and each of his children £25.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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