Christopher Columbus (1451 – May 20, 1506) was a navigator, colonizer and one of the first Europeans to explore the Americas after the Vikings. Though not the first to reach the Americas from Europe, Columbus' voyages led to general European awareness of the hemisphere and the successful establishment of European cultures in the New World. It is generally believed that he was born in Genoa, although other theories exist. The name Christopher Columbus is the Anglicization of the Latin Christophorus Columbus. Also well known are his name's rendering in modern Italian as Cristoforo Colombo and in Spanish as Cristóbal Colón.
Columbus' voyages across the Atlantic Ocean began a European effort at exploration and colonization of the Western Hemisphere. While history places great significance on his first voyage of 1492, he did not actually reach the South American mainland until his third voyage in 1498. Instead, he discovered San Salvador Island accidentally while trying to find an alternative route to India, hence the Native Americans being called "Indians". Likewise, he was not the earliest European explorer to reach the Americas, and there are accounts of European transatlantic contact prior to 1492. Nevertheless, Columbus's voyage came at a critical time of growing national imperialism and economic competition between developing nation states seeking wealth from the establishment of trade routes and colonies. The term Pre-Columbian is sometimes used to refer to the peoples and cultures of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus and further European influence.