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Lived: 1485-1528

Giovanni da Verrazano, a Florentine explorer in the employ of Francis I of France, was the first European to ever see the eastern seaboard of North America. His mission - to find a water route to China. Setting sail in 1524, Verrazano explored the territory between Newfoundland and South Carolina, discovering New York Harbor and Cape Fear. He failed in his prescribed mission, to find that ever-elusive "Northwestern Passage" to China, and the French monarchy left Verrazano's discoveries uncolonized, letting what they saw as unprofitable land claims in New York slip into Dutch, and later English, hands.