Henry The Navigator , a Portuguese prince, born March 4,. 1394, died at Sagres, Nov. 13, 1460. He was the fourth son of King John I. of Portugal and Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. While still a youth he displayed his courage in war with the Moors of Barbary, and was knighted for his bravery in the expedition which achieved the conquest of Ceuta in 1415. On his return from this expedition he fixed his residence at Sagres in Algarve, near Cape St. Vincent, and occupied himself with sending out vessels to cruise against the Moors and to harass the coast of Africa, where he made three campaigns. He was distinguished for learning, particularly for mathematical and geographical knowledge, and founded at Sagres an observatory and a school where young noblemen were instructed in the sciences connected with navigation. The first use of the compass in European navigation, and in part the invention of the astrolabe, are ascribed to him. His studies and inquiries led him to the conclusion that the coast of Africa did not end, as was then commonly supposed, at Cape Nun, and that great and valuable discoveries might be made by tracing its line to the southward into the unknown and dreaded torrid zone.
The first expedition he sent for this purpose consisted of two vessels commanded by Joao Gon-calves Zarco and Tristram Vaz, who set out to pass Cape Nun, but were driven oft* the coast by storms, and accidentally discovered the little island of Porto Santo near Madeira. In the next year (1419) the same captains discovered and subsequently colonized Madeira. Prince Henry during the next 12 years sent vessel after vessel down the coast of Africa, some of which passed Cape Nun and reached Cape Bojador, 300 m. further south. But that cape, from the failure of repeated attempts to double it, was now popularly considered the limit of the habitable world, and there began to be much complaint in Portugal at the expense and hazard of these fruitless expeditions. But the prince persevered, and at length Gil Eannez, whom he sent out in 1433, succeeded in passing Cape Bojador, an achievement that created great excitement at the time, and which forms an era in the history of maritime discovery. The Azores had been visited shortly before. From 1434 to 1441 Prince Henry was chiefly occupied with the domestic affairs of Portugal, which were involved in much confusion.
In 1441 the pope, at the request of Prince Henry, granted to the Portuguese crown all that it could conquer from Cape Bojador to the Indies. The discoveries of the Portuguese had by this time been extended to the mouth of a river nearly 200 m. S. of Cape Bojador. In 1445 the prince sent a vessel under command of Diniz Dyaz or Diniz Fernandez, who sailed down the coast till he reached Cape Verd; the longest advance at one effort that had yet been made by Europeans in African navigation. By this time the popular feeling had changed with regard to these voyages, many of which brought not only honor and fame but profitable returns in gold and slaves, and numbers of enterprising men were ready to engage in them. In 1447 a fleet of 14 vessels was fitted out at Lagos, and the command given by Prince Henry to Lancarote, and sent to the African coast, but without any greater result than extending the limit of discovery to the river Gambia. Several other expeditions in the same direction were subsequently sent out by the Portuguese government, under the advice and control of Prince Henry, one of which just before his death reached Sierra Leone. The Portuguese historian Faria y Sousa, in his Asia Portuguesa (Lisbon, 1666), thus sums up the character of Prince Henry: "He was bulky and strong; his complexion red and white; his hair coarse and shaggy.
His aspect produced fear in those who were not accustomed to him; not in those who were, for, even in the strongest current of his vexation at anything, his courtesy always prevailed over his anger. He was patient in labor, bold and valorous in war, versed in arts and letters; a skilful fencer; in the mathematics superior to all men of his time; generous in the extreme, and zealous in the extreme for the increase of the faith. No bad habit was known in him. He did not marry, nor was it known that he ever violated the purity of continency."