People in history: William Dampier

Born in 5/11/1651, was an English buccaneer, sea captain, author and scientific observer.

Dampier influenced several figures better known than he:

  • His observations and analysis of natural history helped Charles Darwin’s and Alexander von Humboldt’s development of their theories.
  • He made innovations in navigation technology that were studied by James Cook and Horatio Nelson.
  • He is cited over a thousand times in the Oxford English Dictionary notably on words such as ‘barbecue’, ‘avocado’, ‘chopsticks’ and ‘sub-species’. That is not to say he coined the words, but his use of them in his writings is the first known example in English.
  • His notes on the fauna and flora of north Western Australia were studied by naturalist and scientist Joseph Banks, who made further studies during the first voyage with Captain James Cook. This helped lead to the naming of and colonization of Botany Bay and the founding of modern Australia.



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