A man of imagination, dreams, and perseverance, Columbus, the Genoese, persuaded King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to sponsor his search for the Orient through a Western route. Columbus made four voyages to the New World, always landing in the West Indies and believing he was very close to the "Island of Cipango" (Japan). Difficulties with his crew and with his native subjects led to his dismissal as Spanish governor of the islands, although King Ferdinand remained an admirer of his nautical prowess. Fernando Colon (Ferdinand Columbus), his son, wrote The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus. The five-hundreth anniversary of Columbus's first trip to the Americas was celebrated in 1992. The approach of this anniversary prompted a renewed look at Columbus and his significance. As a result, there has been increased controversy about Columbus's role. Some continue to admire him as a visionary who expanded the horizons of Europe and helped usher in a new age. Others, however, view him as a despoiler of the New World who plundered its resources and destroyed the culture of its indigenous people. Elements of truth can be found in both views.
James E. Kelley, Jr., received the M.A. degree from American University. A mathematician and computer and management consultant by vocation, for the past twenty years he has studied the history of European cartography and navigation in late-medieval times. Both are members of the Society for the History of Discoveries and have written extensively on the history of navigation and on Columbus's first voyage, Although they remain unconvinced of its conclusions, both were consultants to the National geographic Society's 1986 effort to establish Samana Cay as the site of Columbus's first landing.