Renaissance, Reformation, and Age of Exploration
January 1347
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January 1 (Sunday)  
Bubonic Plague

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The Black Plague killed about 1.5 million people from the total 4 million in Europe in that time. Since there was no medical knowledge about the disease, there was no way of stopping it from spreading and killing most of the population.

January 1419
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January 1 (Friday)  
Prince Henry the Navigator

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In 1419, Henry founded a navigation school on the southwestern coast of Portugal. Mapmakers, instrument makers, shipbuilders, scientists, and sea captains gathered there to perfect their trade. Henry has the dubious distinction of being a founder of the Atlantic slave trade. He sponsored Nuno Tristao’s exploration of the African coast, and Antao Goncalves’s hunting expedition there in 1441. The two men captured several Africans and brought them back to Portugal. One of the captured men, a chief, negotiated his own return to Africa, promising in exchange to provide the Portuguese with more Africans. Within a few years, Portugal was deeply involved in the slave trade.

January 1428
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January 1 (Tuesday)  
Siege of Orleans

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The Siege of Orléans (1428–1429) marked a turning point in the Hundred Years' War between France and England. This was Joan of Arc's first major military victory and the first major French success to follow the crushing defeat at Agincourt in 1415.

January 1445
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January 1 (Wednesday)  
Johann Gutenberg Invents Printing Press

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The creation of this invention started the Printing Revolution and and is widely regarded as the most important event of the modern period. It had a key role in the Renaissance period. Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.

January 1452
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January 1 (Thursday)  
Leonardo Da Vinci is Born

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Leonardo Da Vinci was a painter, architect, inventor, and student of all things scientific. His natural genius crossed so many disciplines that he epitomized the term “Renaissance man.” Today he remains best known for his art, including two paintings that remain among the world’s most famous and admired, Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Art, da Vinci believed, was indisputably connected with science and nature. Largely self-educated, he filled dozens of secret notebooks with inventions, observations and theories about pursuits from aeronautics to anatomy.

January 1469
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January 1 (Friday)  
Niccolo Machiavelli

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Italian diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli is best known for writing The Prince, a handbook for unscrupulous politicians that inspired the term "Machiavellian" and established its author as the "father of modern political theory."

January 1483
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January 1 (Monday)  
Martin Luther

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Born in Germany in 1483, Martin Luther became one of the most influential figures in Christian history when he began the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. He called into question some of the basic tenets of Roman Catholicism, and his followers soon split from the Roman Catholic Church to begin the Protestant tradition.

August 1488
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August 1 (Wednesday)  
Bartolomeu Dias

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Almost nothing is known about the life of Bartolomeu de Novaes Dias before 1487, except that he was at the court of João II, king of Portugal (1455-1495), and was a superintendent of the royal warehouses. He likely had much more sailing experience than his one recorded stint aboard the warship São Cristóvão. Dias was probably in his mid- to late 30s in 1486 when João appointed him to head an expedition in search of a sea route to India.

January 1491
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January 1 (Thursday)  
Henry the 8th

In 1534, Henry VIII declared himself supreme head of the Church of England. From 1514 to 1529, he had relied on Thomas Wolsey, a Catholic cardinal, to guide his domestic and foreign policies.

August 1492
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August 2 (Tuesday)  
Christopher Columbus

Explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 in the Republic of Genoa, Italy. His first voyage into the Atlantic Ocean in 1476 nearly cost him his life. Columbus participated in several other expeditions to Africa. In 1492 Columbus left Spain in the Santa Maria, with the Pinta and the Niña along side. He has been credited for opening up the Americas to European colonization.

January 1497
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January 1 (Friday)  
Amerigo Vespucci

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Explorer Amerigo Vespucci was born March 9, 1451, (some scholars say 1454) in Florence, Italy. On May 10, 1497, he embarked on his first voyage. On his third and most successful voyage, he discovered present-day Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Plata. Believing he had discovered a new continent, he called South America the New World. In 1507, America was named after him. He died of malaria in Seville, Spain, on February 22, 1512.

May 1497
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May 2 (Sunday)  
John Cabot

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Explorer and navigator John Cabot was born Giovanni Caboto in Italy around 1450. By 1495, he had moved to Bristol, England, with his family. He made a voyage in 1497 on the ship Matthew and claimed land in Canada—mistaking it for Asia—for King Henry VII of England. The declaration helped to set the course for England's rise to power in the 16th and 17th centuries. After setting sail in May 1498 for a return voyage to North America, Cabot's final days remain a mystery. It is believed he died sometime in 1499 or 1500.

July 1497
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July 8 (Thursday)  
Vasco de Gama

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Vasco da Gama was a highly successful Portuguese sailor and explorer during the Age of Exploration. He was the first person to sail directly from Europe to India, around the Cape of Good Hope. His discovery was monumental in the history of navigation as well as instrumental in establishing Portugal as a major colonial empire.

March 1513
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March 3 (Monday)  
Juan Ponce de Leon

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Born into Spanish nobility, Juan Ponce de León (1460-1521) may have accompanied Christopher Columbus on his 1493 voyage to the New World. A decade later, he was serving as governor of the eastern province of Hispaniola when he decided to explore a nearby island, which became Puerto Rico. In pursuit of a rumored fountain of youth located on an island known as Bimini, Ponce de León led an expedition to the coast of what is now Florida in 1513. Thinking it was the island he sought, he sailed back to colonize the region in 1521, but was fatally wounded in an Indian attack soon after his arrival.

January 1519
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January 1 (Wednesday)  
Hernan Cortes

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Born around 1485, Hernán Cortés was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who defeated the Aztec empire and claimed Mexico for Spain. He first set sail to the New World at the age of 19. Cortés later joined an expedition to Cuba. In 1518, he set off to explore Mexico. There he strategically aligned some native peoples against others to overthrow them. King Charles I appointed him governor of New Spain in 1522. Cortés died in Spain in 1547.

September 1521
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September 1 (Thursday)  
Ferdinand Magellan

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Ferdinand Magellan was born in Portugal, circa 1480. As a boy, he studied mapmaking and navigation. By his mid-20s, he was sailing in large fleets and was engaged in combat. In 1519, with the support of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Magellan set out to find a better route to the Spice Islands. He assembled a fleet of ships which, despite huge setbacks and Magellan’s death, circumnavigated the world in a single voyage.

January 1522
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January 1 (Sunday)  
Francisco Pizarro

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Francisco Pizarro was born circa 1476 in Trujillo, Spain. In 1513, he joined Vasco Núñez de Balboa in his march to the "South Sea," during which Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean. In 1532, Pizarro and his brothers conquered Peru. Three years later, Pizarro founded the nation's new capital, Lima. Pizarro was assassinated on June 26, 1541, in Lima, Peru, by vengeful members of an enemy faction of conquistadors.

January 1533
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January 1 (Sunday)  
Queen Elizabeth 1

In 1558, Elizabeth took the reins of her country after the death of her sister. She inherited a number of problems stirred up by Mary. The country was at war with France, which proved to be a tremendous drain on the royal coffers. There was also great tension between different religious factions after Mary worked to restore England to Roman Catholicism by any means necessary. Elizabeth acted swiftly to address these two pressing issues. During her first session of Parliament in 1559, she called for the passage of the Act of Supremacy, which re-established the Church of England, and the Act of Uniformity, which created a common prayer book. Elizabeth took a moderate approach to the divisive religious conflict in her country. "There is one Jesus Christ," she once said. "The rest is a dispute over trifles." However, Catholics did suffer religious  persecution and some were executed under her reign, though historians differ on the extent. The Roman Catholic Church took a dim view of her actions, and in 1570, Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth.

January 1574
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January 1 (Tuesday)  
Samuel de Champlain

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Champlain's earliest travels were with his uncle, and he ventured as far as Spain and the West Indies. From 1601 to 1603, he was a geographer for King Henry IV, and then joined François Gravé Du Pont's expedition to Canada in 1603. The group sailed up the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers and explored the Gaspé Peninsula, ultimately arriving in Montreal. Although Champlain had no official role or title on the expedition, he proved his mettle by making uncanny predictions about the network of lakes and other geographic features of the region.

January 1643
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January 1 (Thursday)  
Isaac Newton

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Born on January 4, 1643, in Woolsthorpe, England, Isaac Newton was an established physicist and mathematician, and is credited as one of the great minds of the 17th century Scientific Revolution. With discoveries in optics, motion and mathematics, Newton developed the principles of modern physics. In 1687, he published his most acclaimed work, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), which has been called the single most influential book on physics.



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