Historical Risk Takers

Risk-takers in history changed our lives today.

Think of what it would take for the average person to confront opposing soldiers, sail into dark mysterious waters, take a homemade plane for a spin, or rocket away from the earth to arrive on the lunar surface. That is what some of the most adventurous risk takers in history did, and they changed our world forever.


Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus set out to find a water route to Asia by sailing west into the Atlantic Ocean from Europe. Instead, he made landfall in the Caribbean and discovered the New World on Oct. 12, 1492. Inspired by the tales of Marco Polo about China in the 13th century, Columbus thought that he would find a passage to Asia through the Caribbean Islands. Sailing west to arrive in the east was an idea based on the science of the time. Although the Vikings were the original risk-takers who found North America, Christopher Columbus is respected for his adventures.


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Paul Revere

Paul Revere rode out into the night on April 18, 1775 to alert the people of Boston to the fact that British troops were on their way. He was a family man who risked his life by eluding a British roadblock during his nighttime ride. In the process he helped to save his neighbors and to create a new nation. Revere was a silversmith who had eight children with his first wife, and when she died he married again in 1773 and fathered another eight children. He joined the Sons of Liberty, a patriot group dedicated to the independence of the American colonies, and demonstrated against taxation without representation in the Boston Tea Party.


Wright Brothers

Orville and Wilbur Wright were the first people to fly a plane that was heavier than air. They flew kites and gliders to gain experience and test data. The town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina had suitable weather conditions for developing an airplane, and they began their experiments there in 1900. Several years later the government expressed interest in purchasing a plane meeting particular specifications. In 1908, Orville demonstrated the plane. The first flight lasted just 12 seconds and the plane flew only 120 feet, but the aeronautics industry was launched.


Buzz Aldrin

Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, lunar explorer, was a member of the Apollo 11 team that achieved a lunar landing on July 20, 1969. In doing so he satisfied the promise made by President John F. Kennedy to land an American on the moon before the decade ended. Born in Montclair, New Jersey, Buzz Aldrin attended the military academy at West Point and flew numerous combat missions in Korea. He was instrumental in developing methods for the astronauts' activities on the surface of the moon. He and Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong spent 20 hours on the moon before returning to the lunar module.