It is not unfair to say that Portugal's emergence as the first great exploring country was due to a single person, Prince Henry the Navigator who lived from 1394-1460. Henry was initially interested in expanding the mercantile opportunities to Portugal and secondarily interested in spreading Christianity. He was called "The Navigator"because he founded the first school of navigation in Europe. The graduates of this school would lead expeditions further and further south along the coast of Africa, the continent south of the Sahara was a great unknown.
Vasco da Gama (1460-1524) was a Portuguese explorer, the most successful in the Age of Discovery and the commander of the first ships directly from Europe to India. Vasco da Gama : was born in 1460 or 1469 on the south west coast of Portugal. Little is known of Vasco da Gama's early life. It is known that he studied at the inland town of Evora and learnt mathematics, navigation and astronomy. He studied astronomy from the astronomer Abraham Zacuto.
In 1492 King John II of Portugal sent Gama to the port of Setubal, south of Lisbon and to the Algarve to seize French ships in retaliation for peace time depredations against Portuguese shipping -a task that Vasco da Gama rapidly and effectively performed. Since early 15th century attempt was made by the nautical school of Henry the Navigator to find a route round the African subcontinent to gain easier access to the riches of India.