British naval captain, navigator, and explorer. Cook charted the coasts and seaways of Canada (1759; 1763–7), the St Lawrence Channel and the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. He then commanded an expedition in HMS Endeavour (1768–71) to Tahiti and continued to chart the coasts of New Zealand and eastern Australia. On a second voyage (1772–5) he became the first navigator to cross the Antarctic Circle but was then driven back by ice. However, he explored vast areas of the Pacific. His third voyage (begun in 1776) was to find the North-West Passage. He sought it backwards, by entering the Pacific and sailing up the west coast of North America. He reached the Bering Strait before a wall of ice forced him to retreat. On the way he had discovered Hawaii, a perfect place for refitting his ships. Returning to Hawaii his crew became engaged in a fight with the islanders over the stealing of a cutter and he was stabbed to death.
Cook set new standards in the sea care of men exposed to lengthy voyages: in order to protect his crews from scurvy (a lethal disease caused by lack of ascorbic acid), he pioneered a diet that included cabbage, cress, and a kind of orange extract. His Journals give a detailed account of his three voyages to the Pacific.