Jean Francois De Galaup La Perouse, count de, a French navigator, born at Guo, near Albi, Languedoc, Aug. 22, 1741, perished probably by shipwreck at Vanikoro, an island in the South Pacific, in 1788 or 1789. He entered the navy at the age of 15, and in 1759 was wounded and taken prisoner in the engagement with Sir Edward Hawke off Belle Isle. Subsequently he served in the American war of independence, and in 1782 entered Hudson bay with a small fleet and destroyed the British trading establishments there. Upon the conclusion of the war Louis XVI., with a view of securing for the French people a share in the glory which the English were reaping from the discoveries of navigators like Cook, caused the frigates Astrolabe and Boussole to be fitted out under the command of La Perouse for maritime explorations in the Pacific, and along the coasts of America, China, Japan, and Tar-tary. La Perouse, sailing from Brest, Aug. 1, 1785, doubled Cape Horn and proceeded to the 1ST. W. coast of America. From Mount St. Elias he explored the coast as far as Monterey, California, whence he crossed over to Asia. During the summer of 1787 he followed the coast from Manila to Petropavlovsk, at which place he arrived in September, having examined the waters which separate the coast of Tartary from the Japanese group of islands, and discovered the straits between the islands of Saghalien and Yezo which bear his name.
From Petropavlovsk he sent to France copies of his journals and charts and other data, from which an account of his voyage was subsequently prepared. Sailing south in the latter part of September, he touched at Maouna, one of the Navigator's islands, where De Langle, the commander of the Astrolabe, and a number of men were killed by the natives, and thence proceeded to Botany Bay. A letter from La Perouse to the French minister of marine, dated Botany Bay, Feb. 7, 1788, announcing his intention of proceeding to the isle of France by the way of Van Diemen's Land, the Friendly isles, and New Guinea, was the last intelligence ever received from the expedition. In 1791 a squadron was despatched under Admiral D'Entrecasteaux in search of La Perouse, but failed of finding any trace of him. Du-mont d'Urville while at Hobart Town in 1828 learned that fragments of a shipwrecked vessel and her equipments had been discovered in Vanikoro in the New Hebrides group, and sailing thither with his vessel the Astrolabe, ascertained that many years previous two ships had foundered on a reef off the W. coast of the island, and that such of the crews as had not been drowned or murdered by the savages had sailed from the island in a small vessel built by themselves, and never afterward been heard of.
Believing that these were the ships of La Perouse, he caused a cenotaph to be erected near the locality of the shipwreck.