Gray, Robert,1755–1806, American sea captain, discoverer of the Columbia River, b. Tiverton, R.I. He probably served in the Continental navy in the American Revolution. In 1787 he and Capt. John Kendrick were sent by Boston merchants to the northwest coast of North America with two vessels, the Columbia Rediviva and the sloop Lady Washington. In 1789, Gray was transferred to command of the Columbia, took a rich cargo of sea otter skins to Guangzhou, and in 1790 returned to Boston, the first American to circumnavigate the globe. In 1791 he went back to the Northwest coast and wintered there. On May 11, 1792, he took the Columbia past the dangerous bar and up the river later named after the ship. Though Spanish and English navigators had been familiar with the bar at the Columbia's mouth, Gray was the first to enter the river itself.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
Gray, Robert(1755–1806) navigator, explorer; born in Tiverton, R.I. A naval veteran of the American Revolution and then a merchant seaman, he became a fur trader in Boston. He commanded the Columbia for most of its 42,000-mile voyage (1787–90), the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. After a refitting in Boston, he took the Columbia around to the Northwest coast near Vancouver Island; in the course of his explorations, he discovered a large river (1792) that he named the Columbia (after his ship); later his discoveries in the region became the basis of the U.S. claim to the Oregon territories. He died at sea on a voyage to Charleston, N.C.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.