Men Who Made the World Known


The first great explorers of whom we have any record were the Phoenicians, who lived in the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. In the 10th century B.C., they sailed their ships along the coast to the Greek isles, to Sicily and Sardinia, to Utica on the African coats and finally to Spain. They made their way overland to China, India, and Persia. And in the 7th century B.C they sailed their ships all the way round Africa.

The Greeks’ love of adventure led to their exploration and colonization of the Mediterranean coast. Greek towns were set up in southern Italy and in Sicily in the 8th century B.C. Marseilles was founded by Greek traders about 600 B.C.


The Romans were the great conquering and trading people. Over a period of three centuries, they built an empire that included the whole of the ancient civilized world  (West of Persia). The Roman occupation of the British Isles began in 55 B.C nd the entire island of Great Britain south of Hadrian’s Wall was Romanized.



After the decline of the Romantic Empire, trade exploration was carried on by Irishmen, Bretons, and others. But few were as daring or as adventurous as the Norsemen (Vikings).  They sailed from the Scandanavia in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries and attacked the coasts of the British Isles, France, and Spain. Eric, the Red voyage to Iceland and Greenland. His son, Leif Ericson, who lived about A.D 1000, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed in North America.




The Polos were a wealthy merchant family who lived in the 13th century. At that time, Europeans seldom travelled more than a few miles into Asia. When a merchant or adventurer did manage to make his way inland and return safely, he had wonderful things to tell.

In 1271 Marco Polo (1254-1324) set out for China. The 17-year-old youth traveled with his father, who had already made one successful journey to Peking, and his uncle Maffeo. They spent four years in this voyage, travelling through burning sand, fever-filled swamps and frozen plains and up the steep passes of the highest mountain ranges in the world.

The Chinese Emperor, Kublai Khan (1216-94), welcomed them to Peking. He took a special liking to Marco, who was intelligent and had already learnt to speak many languages. Marco was given work to do at the court and send on missions to various parts of the vast Mongol Empire.

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The Polos stayed in China for 7 years. In 1292, they set out for home on a journey that took them three years. At first friends did not recognize them, for they had been away for 24 years. Quite naturally, they became famous Venetian citizens, and Marco was made an admiral. A year or so later, when war broke out between Venice and Genoa, Marco was captured and put in prison. To while away the hours there, he told the story of his travels to a fellow prisoner who wrote them down. After Marco was released, he returned to Venice and his book of travels was published. It became very popular and was translated into many languages. Even today you can buy it in a bookshop or borrow it from your library and read about the amazing adventures of the young Venetian.



More than a hundred years after the Marco Polo’s trip, a great age of exploration began. Asia had many goods which European wanted, such as spices, silks, drugs, precious woods, and gems. For centuries, these goods had been brought overland most of the way because no sea routes to the East were known.

The trade routes to India and China went through lands of the Moslem Arabs. The Arabs were often, in fact, middlemen in the trade between Europe and the East. But, as time went on, the Turks conquered most to the most part of Asia. In 1453, the great European city of Constantinople fell into their hands. They would not let Christians travel through their lands, so the land route to the East was closed.

The Portuguese did most for navigation in this period. In the first half of the 15th century, Prince Henry of Portugal- or Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), as he is usually called- lived at Sagres on the Atlantic coast of Portugal. Prince Henry was a famous military leader of his time. But what he really liked was navigation and exploration. He organized what has sometimes been called a school of navigation at his place at Sagres. His men explored every bay and river-mouth along the west coast of Africa, making maps and charts. The results of these expeditions helped to make possible the achievements of many navigators who came afterwards.

The seamen sent out by Prince Henry to explore the west coast of Africa, did not go to the southern tip to the continent. It remained for another Portuguese, Bartholomew Diaz (1450?-1500) to do this.

Diaz started his seafaring life as a young man. He made several voyages as far as the Guinea coast and brought back ivory and gold. The King of Portugal was pleased with the achievements of Diaz that he put him in charge of an expedition to the west coast of Africa.

In 1487 Diaz left Portugal with three ships. He followed the coast past Morocco, into the Gulf of Guinea and then southwards, exploring and making maps along the way. As the ships went further south, they ran into one of the great storms of the South Atlantic and were blown far out to the sea.

When the storm died out, Diaz turned back to find land again. He followed the shore in a north-easterly direction and then northwards. Almost without realizing it, it had sailed round the southern tip of Africa into the Indian Ocean.

The King of Portugal was delighted with the success of the voyage. He referred to the place where the ships had been blown off course as the Cape of Good Hope because it had brought the hope of a route to the East nearer to fulfillment.

After this expedition, Diaz made trading voyage along the African coast. Then, in 1500, he sailed across the Atlantic to Brazil. On the way home, his ship was lost and he was never seen again.



How Did the Earth Begin


How did our world begin? Where did it come from? It the ancient times, people made imaginative stories about the beginning of the earth, but these did not really explain what had happened.

Some people did not satisfy with these stories. They watched or observed, the skies carefully. They had no telescopes, but they could observe many things without telescopes. They saw that all the stars moved through the night sky as a group, as if they were tied together. They also saw that a few objects seem to wander among the stars. They called these objects “planets”, which come from a Greek word meaning ‘wanderer’.

The earth is a part of the solar system —the system of the sun. The moon and the other planets and their moon also a part of solar system. The sun at the centre and the planets move round the sun in paths called orbits. The third planet, counting upward in the sun, is the earth.

We want to know how the earth began. To find out, we must learn something about the beginning, or the origin, of the solar system. Scientists have given similar explanations, or theories, of how this might have happened. But nobody knows for sure.


One of the first of these theories was proposed by the great French astronomer and mathematician Pierre Laplace in 1766. It is called the nebular hypothesis. (A hypothesis is a guess that is based on facts and does not conflict with them.) Nebula is the Latin word for ‘cloud’; the universe contains many nebulae, or clouds made up of gas and dust.

Laplace believed that a sun was once a rotating cloud of a hot gas. The rotation caused the cloud to become round, like a huge ball. As the ball cooled, the cloud shrank in size and started to rotate faster. (A spinning skater spins faster, too, if he reduces his size by pulling in his arms.) The shrinking and spinning caused a ball to bulge to the equator and flatten out to the poles. A ring of gas and dust then formed round at the equator. This ring of material broke away from the ball, and the pieces joined together to form a planet. The planet orbited round the rest of the cloud. Meanwhile, the cloud went on spinning and shrinking faster and faster, producing more rings, each of them breaking away and forming a planet. Finally, a family of planets moving round a central globe of a hot gas-the sun was produced. The explanation seemed so reasonable that for a time everyone believe that this is how the earth and its sister planets began.

As more facts, we discover about the sun and the planets, the Laplace theory began to lose favour. The main problem was the fact that the sun spins slowly. If Laplace’s theory was true, it would spin quickly. Possibly the sun had slowed down, but no one could explain how this could have happened. So astronomers had to star all over again and look for new theories.


About 1900, Thomas Chamberlin and Forest Moulton, two American scientists, put forward a new idea. It was called the planetesimal theory. (‘Planetesimal’ means ‘little planet’.)Some years later, two British scientists, Sir James Jeans and Harold Jeffreys, proposed another theory called the tidal theory. There were some differences between the British and American theories, but the mean theories were the same. At first, according to these theories, the sun had no planets.  Then, ages ago, it came very close to another star. Each body exerted each pull of gravity on the other. This raised tidal wave of hot gas which swirled round the sun and the star. As they passed each other, streams of gas were pulled out into space between the two bodies. As these two bodies moved apart,  some of the streams of gas condensed to form planets.

These, too, looked like very good theories. But astronomers have had discarded them. For one thing, the passing star could not have given the planets enough motion to keep them in orbit round the sun. They would have fallen back into the sun and burnt up. Also, both theories were based on the chance of a star having passed close to the sun.

The Laplace Theory:  The ring of gas separates from the ball of gas at the equator.
The Laplace Theory:
The ring of gas separates from the ball of gas at the equator.
The material of the rings join together to form a planet.
The material of the rings join together to form a planet.
The clouds continues to shrink and spin, forming the family of planets which rotates around the sun.
The cloud continues to shrink and spin, forming the family of planets which rotates around the sun.
The Planetesimal Theory: A passing star raises tides  on the surface of the sun.
The Planetesimal Theory: A passing star raises tides on the surface of the sun.


Astronomers have since proposed more theories about the origin of the earth. All of these theories are of two main kinds. The natural, or evolutionary, theories suggest the planet form round a star as the star is created, or they form as part of a normal life. Laplace’s nebular hypothesis is of this kind. Other theories are called catastrophic theories. Such theories say that planets are created round a star only by an accident or a catastrophe, such as the approach of another star or a collision with it. The planetesimal theory is of this kind.

It is important which kind of theory is correct. If a natural theory is right, most stars should have planets. But if a catastrophic theory is the explanation on how the earth began,  then the creation of out planet and the life on it is still unusual event in the history of the universe. Stars are so far apart that an accident involving two stars must be very rare. In fact, during the lifetime of the solar system which is 4,600,000,000 years-only one in every 10,000,000,000 stars could have gained planet in this way.

Astronomers can in fact detect planets around the stars. They cannot see them through the telescopes because the stars are so far away. But the planets disturbed the motion of the stars and this motion can be seen. A natural theory is therefore much likely than a catastrophic one. In fact, Laplace’s hypothesis is now thought to be correct in outline.

Most astronomers now believe that the sun and the planet were formed from spinning cloud of dust and a gas. This theory was first developed by a German astronomer Carl van Weizsacker in the 1940s. Since then, the astronomers have added his theory, which is called the dust -cloud theory.

Throughout the universe, there are huge clouds of dust and gas. More than 5,000,000,000 years ago, according to the theory, a large number of dust particles within such a cloud began to condense and formed a globule. As the globule became round, like a ball, it began to spin. This spinning caused is to flatten out. The centre of the disc, was spinning slowly than the outer parts. It began to condense even more. Eventually, the energy released by this process caused the temperature and the pressure in the globule to become high that thermo-nuclear processes began. The star-our sun-then began to shine in its own right.

The outer parts of the dust cloud were spinning too fast to condense into one mass. They broke up into smaller, swirling masses of gas and dust, which condensed to form a planet.


What was the newly formed earth like? Was it a ball of red-hot glowing rock? Was it cold? Or was it perhaps liquid? These questions are of great important to geologists who study the earth.

Most geologists now agree on a general picture of a young earth. The earth formed a dust particles gathered together in a cloud in space. The particles attracted together and formed a solid globe. As the force of the gravity of globe pulled in more and more particles, a new world grew larger and larger.

As the earth grew, it was not very hot. Its temperature is probably the same about the boiling water (100-degree celsius). But today, the inside of the earth has a much higher temperature. It is now so hot that the rock there is molten and flows from volcanoes in fiery and deadly rivers of the lava.

How did the earth get so hot? There were probably several reasons of the heating of the young earth. The materials of which the earth is made contains radioactive elements such us uranium. These elements are constantly producing heat-enough, in fact, to keep the centre of the earth as hot as it is now. This might seem to explain how the interior of the earth became molten. But the study of rocks showed that this melting happened more quickly than can be explained by the radio-activity alone.

As the new planet grew, solid particles would have rained down upon its surface. The impact of each one would have produced a little heat-enough perhaps to heat the world so that its interior began to melt. Then, enough heat would be gained by radio-activity to keep the interior hot when the bombardment of the particles stopped.


One event that did not disturb the surface of our young world was the formation of the moon. Many astronomers once thought that the moon came from the earth. Some even suggested that the Pacific ocean covered that the hole that remained when the moon left the earth. But the Apollo moon landing settled this argument. The moon is different enough from the earth to show that it was never part of the earth. The moon is about same age as the earth-4,600,000,000 years. So it probably formed as separate body like the earth and other planets were themselves formed, from the cloud of gas and dust.


There are many clouds and dust scattered throughout the universe. Astronomers believed that stars and planets are forming there just as our solar system formed long ago.They also believe that other planets with some forms of life must exist somewhere far away in the universe. It is impossible to guess how many planets contain life. But in case you may be thinking that our world is a special one in the universe, keep this in mind: the earth is just one of the nine planets circling the sun, and the sun is just of 100,000,000,000 stars that make up the great island of stars called the Milky Way or the Galaxy.

Astronomers believe that they can detect about 1,000 stars which have planets, but these are only nearby stars. Possibly, almost all of the stars in the Galaxy have planets. And, if these were not enough to think about, our most powerful telescopes can locate the distance gleam of about 1,000,000,000 other galaxies in the universe. Therefore, the total numbers of planets in the universe is probably many millions of millions of millions.