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Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈvaʃku dɐ ˈɡɐmɐ]) (Sines or Vidigueira, Alentejo, Portugal, around 1460 or 1469 – 24 December 1524 in Kochi, India) was a Portuguese explorer, one of the most successful in the European Age of Discovery and the commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India. For a short time in 1524 he was Governor of Portuguese India under the title of Viceroy.

Vasco da Gama was born in either 1460  or 1469  in Sines, on the southwest coast of Portugal, probably in a house near the church of Nossa Senhora das Salas. Sines, one of the few seaports on the Alentejo coast, consisted of little more than a cluster of whitewashed, red-tiled cottages, tenanted chiefly by fisherfolk.

Vasco da Gama's father was Estêvão da Gama. In the 1460s he was a knight in the household of the Duke of Viseu, Dom Fernando, who appointed him Alcaide-Mór or Civil Governor of Sines and enabled him to receive a small revenue from taxes on soap making in Estremoz.

Estêvão da Gama was married to Dona Isabel Sodré, daughter of João Sodré (also known as João de Resende). Sodré, who was of English descent, had links to the household of Prince Diogo, Duke of Viseu, son of king Edward I of Portugal and governor of the military Order of Christ.

Little is known of Vasco da Gama's early life. The Portuguese historian Teixeira de Aragão suggests that Gama studied at the inland town of Évora, which is where he may have learned mathematics and navigation. It is evident that Gama knew astronomy well, and it is possible that he may have studied under the astronomer Abraham Zacuto.

In 1492 King John II of Portugal sent Gama to the port of Setúbal, south of Lisbon and to the Algarve to seize French ships in retaliation for peacetime depredations against Portuguese shipping - a task that Vasco rapidly and effectively performed.