Christopher Columbus was born (1451–1506) in the Republic of Genoa, in what is today Northwestern Italy. His father was a middle-class wool merchant, though it was relatively humble beginnings for what he later became. Columbus learnt to sail from an early age and later worked as a business agent, travelling around Europe to England, Ireland and later along the West coast of Africa. He was not a scholar but was an enthusiastic self-educated man, who read extensively on astronomy, science and navigation. He also became fluent in Latin, Portuguese and Spanish. Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, colonizer, and navigator. He is remembered as the principal European discoverer of the Americas and he helped bring the Americas to the forefront of the western consciousness. His discoveries and travels laid the framework for the later European colonisation of Latin and North America.