James Cook FRS (7 November 1728[NB 1] – 14 February 1779) was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the British Royal Navy, famous for his three voyages between 1768 and 1779 in the Pacific Ocean and to New Zealand and Australia in particular. He made detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.

Quick facts: James Cook FRS, Born, Died, Cause of dea...
James Cook

Born7 November [O.S. 27 October] 1728
Died14 February 1779(1779-02-14) (aged 50)
Cause of deathStab wound
EducationPostgate School, Great Ayton
OccupationExplorer, navigator, cartographer
(m. 1762)
Military career
BranchRoyal Navy
Service years1755–1779
RankCaptain (Post-captain)

Cook joined the British merchant navy as a teenager and joined the Royal Navy in 1755. He saw action in the Seven Years' War and subsequently surveyed and mapped much of the entrance to the St. Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec, which brought him to the attention of the Admiralty and the Royal Society. This acclaim came at a crucial moment for the direction of British overseas exploration, and it led to his commission in 1768 as commander of HMS Endeavour for the first of three Pacific voyages.

In these voyages, Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe. He mapped lands from New Zealand to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean in greater detail and on a scale not previously charted by Western explorers. He surveyed and named features, and recorded islands and coastlines on European maps for the first time. He displayed a combination of seamanship, superior surveying and cartographic skills, physical courage, and an ability to lead men in adverse conditions.

Cook was attacked and killed in 1779 during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific while attempting to kidnap the ruling chief of the island of Hawaiʻi, Kalaniʻōpuʻu, in order to reclaim a cutter taken from one of his ships after his crew took wood from a burial ground. Whilst there is controversy over Cook's role as 'an enabler of colonialism'[1] and the violence associated with his contacts with indigenous peoples, he left a legacy of scientific and geographical knowledge that influenced his successors well into the 20th century, and numerous memorials worldwide have been dedicated to him.