Cook, James, 1728–79, English explorer and navigator. The son of a Yorkshire agricultural laborer, he had little formal education. After an apprenticeship to a firm of shipowners at Whitby, he joined (1755) the royal navy and surveyed the St. Lawrence Channel (1760) and the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador (1763–67). Cook was then given command of the Endeavour and sailed (1768) on an expedition to chart the transit of Venus; he returned to England in 1771, having also circumnavigated the globe and explored the coasts of New Zealand, which he accurately charted for the first time, and E Australia.
Cook next commanded (1772–75) an expedition to the South Pacific of two ships, the Resolution and the Adventure. On this voyage he disproved the rumor of a great southern continent, explored the Antarctic Ocean and the New Hebrides, visited New Caledonia, and by the observance of strict diet and hygiene prevented scurvy, heretofore the scourge of long voyages. Cook sailed again in 1776; in 1778 he visited and named the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and unsuccessfully searched the coast of NW North America for a Northwest Passage. On the return voyage he was killed by natives on the island of Hawaii. During the course of his journeys Cook visited about ten major Pacific island groups and more than 40 individual islands, also making first European contact with a wide variety of indigenous peoples.
See the definitive edition of his journals, ed. by J. C. Beaglehole (4 vol. and portfolio, repr. 1999); selections from his journals, ed. by A. G. Price (1958, repr. 1969); biographies by A. Villiers (1967), J. C. Beaglehole (1974), R. Hough (1995), and F. McLynn (2011); A. Moorehead, The Fatal Impact (1966); H. Zimmerman, The Third Voyage of Captain Cook (1988); L. Withey, Voyages of Discovery (1989); G. Obeyesekere, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook (1992); N. Thomas, Cook (2003); G. Blainey, Sea of Dangers (2009).
More on James Cook from Infoplease:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Explorers, Travelers, and Conquerors: Biographies