This is the full story of Christopher Columbus, the central figure of the age of sea exploration, who brought his contemporaries into a vastly expanded world changing forever their lives and the scope of human history. It is the first comprehensive and well-integrated biography, soundly rooted in historical fact, which places his life, time and deeds in proper perspective. The fast-paced narrative, keeping events and incidents in their context, replaces myths and distortions with documented facts and clear down-to-earth analysis. Disregarding past stereotypes, the story of Columbus emerges as that of a human being of blood and flesh who, like all of us, had to take on life with its inherent contradictions and limitations. It is the story of a complex man of humble origin driven by the innovative power of his vision. Lofty dreams and persistent struggles, sweeping action and painful defeats, high accomplishments and dismal failures are all part of the many-sided fabric of a life lived on a scale without precedents. What makes the true story of Columbus especially relevant in our time is the looming age of space exploration, which is bound to become the dominant factor of the twenty-first century. Its far-reaching consequences for the way we live and think can no more be imagined at this stage than it was possible, for the people who lived in 1492, to imagine the extraordinary transformation that would ensue from Columbus' discovery of the New World. The latter is the only available precedent of comparable importance in human history that no one can ignore in the face of a future about which very little is known or even imaginable.