Reviled by Native American cultures for the destruction of their way of life, Columbus followed a long line of European voyagers to that part of the world.
St. Brendan the Navigator is supposed to have left from Ireland via Scotland, Iceland and Greenland for North America in the 500s.
While that account is easily dismissed as fanciful, less so are the Viking saga accounts. After settling Greenland, the Norse headed west and set up a colony in modern-day Canada in 1001.
Meanwhile, Basque tradition says they founded a whaling station in Newfoundland in 1372.
Besides all that European involvement, there was still the small issue of the tens of millions already living in the Americas.
On this day in 1799, Jeanne-Geneviève Garnerin became the first woman to make a parachute descent. This happened in France just two years after the first parachute jump was made by her husband and inventor of the frameless parachute.
1865: Birth of Arthur Harden, an English biochemist and co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the investigation of fermentation.
1928: In Boston, the Iron Lung first went in to clinical use for polio patients. This was a ventilator that allowed patients to breathe when they had lost control of their lung muscles. They were especially important during the polio epidemics during the first half of the 20th Century.
1965: Death of Paul Hermann Muller, Swiss chemist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on the insecticidal qualities of DDT.