Prince Henry the Navigator was born on March 4, 1394 in Sagres Portugal. He was the third son of King John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster. Henry led a military expedition that captured Ceuta. This was Portugal's first overseas conquest.
Henry became determined to expand Portugal's knowledge of Africa. At the time, no Europeans had sailed south of Cape Bojador. Sailors had feared sailing south of there, because they feared that the Southerly winds south of Cape Bojador would not allow them to return North. There were rumors that the waters to the south were so warm that the seas literally boiled.
Henry set his mind at overcoming these and other obstacles. He accumulated as much knowledge as possible about the areas. He hired cartographers (map makers) to update the maps and had ship designers go about designing a ship that would make a good exploration vessel. These designers developed the famous Caravel- a ship that could sail into the wind.
Henry then set a course to systematically explore the coast of Africa. He sent expedition after expedition, every time sailing further to the South. Henry was initially criticized for spending significant money on the exploration that did not provide any returns for Portugal. As his explorers found their way ever further into Africa, Portugal developed a very lucrative trade with West Africa.
Prince Henry died on November 13, 1460, before he could see his dream of reaching the Southern extreme of Africa realized. His determination to overcome all of the obstacles that stood in the way of exploration opened the way for the voyages of Dias and daGama, which opened up the Portuguese trade to the East.