Vasco de Gama was an explorer of Portuguese ancestry. He was born in Sinnes, Portugal in 1460, the son of an explorer, and died of malaria in 1524, shortly after he arrived in India following his third voyage.
Due to the difficulty of traversing the overland route to India, it was important to Europeans to find a more proficient way to access the spices and riches of India. The overland route was a long, arduous journey fraught with the dangers of war and pillage.
In 1497, King Henry of Portugal commissioned Vasco de Gama with four ships, and sponsored a sea expedition from Portugal, around the Cape of Good Hope, and northward along the coast of Africa, across the Indian Ocean to Calcutta, India. The expedition was a success in that the ships reached India, but they had little to trade so were forced to return to Portugal; a journey which proved to be problematic. Many sailors were lost to disease, and the time it took to return to port was much longer than the original trip. Despite its shortcomings, the expedition was hailed as de Gama's greatest achievement.
Vasco de Gama made two more voyages around the Cape of Good Hope. The first was to demonstrate that the Portuguese navy was a formidable force against Arab ships. The second one was successful in reaching India but Vasco de Gama died of disease soon after arrival.