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Martín Fernández Navarrete

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Spanish navigator and writer, b. at Avalos (Logrono), 8 November, 1765; d. at Madrid, 8 October, 1844. He received his early education partly in his native town and partly at the seminary of Vergara. At the age of fifteen he entered the navy and a little later in 1782 served with distinction in the unsuccessful operations against Gibraltar. Through overwork, he became broken down in health and was compelled to withdraw from active service for a time; but during this period of enforced rest, he devoted himself to historical research and in 1789 was commissioned by the Minister of Marine to seach the national archives and to gather all documents and data in connection with the maritime history of Spain. He devoted three years to this work and among the documents he discovered were the diaries of the first and third voyages of Columbus. War having been declared between Spain and France he rejoined the navy in 1792 and took part in the siege of Toulon. Shortly after this he was promoted to the grade of captain in the navy. He was then placed under the orders of Captain General Langara of the Department of Cádiz with whom he afterwards served in various capacities when the latter was made Minister of Marine. While in the Marine Office, he brought about many improvements and reforms among them the planning and organizing of the hydrographical office of which he afterwards became the head (1823). In 1808, he resigned his government charges and retired from public life rather than recognize the claims of Joseph Bonaparte who had been seated upon the Spanish throne. In 1814, he was made secretary of the Academy of St. Ferdinand, and from 1824 until his death, was a director of the Academy of History. Several times he was elected to represent his province as senator, but his career in the senate was not a brilliant one. Most of Navarrete's writing is historical. His best work, and the one which gives him his reputation, is "Colección de los viajes y descubrimientos que hicieron por mar los espanoles desde el fin del siglo XV" (Madrid, 1825-37). This was published at government expense, and has been widely read and quoted. Among his other works is an excellent life of Cervantes, published in 1819 in connection with an edition of "Don Quijote" brought out by the Spanish Academy; "Colección de documentos inéditos" written in collaboration with others; "Disertación sobre la historia de la náutica," and "Biblioteca maritima española". The last two were published after his death, in 1846 and 1851 respectively.

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