Dampier, William (1651?–1715), an English buccaneer and navigator. He was the first Englishman to set foot in Australia and he discovered the island of New Britain. Dampier Strait and the Dampier Archipelago are named for him. A New Voyage Around the World (1697), a lively account of his exploits, provided background material used by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver's Travels. Dampier's discourse on winds, tides, and currents, contained in his Voyages and Discoveries (1699), was a pioneer work on meteorology and hydrography. His charts and navigational data were used by English sea captains for a century.
Dampier was born in Somerset, and went to sea as a boy. His career as a buccaneer began in Jamaica. In 1686 he crossed the Pacific on the buccaneer vessel Cygnet. Dissatisfied with the way the ship was being run, he had himself put ashore on the Nicobar Islands and, after many hardships, reached England in 1691. During 1699–1701 Dampier commanded a Royal Navy vessel sent to explore the Australian coast. On his final voyage, 1708–11, Dampier was pilot (navigator) for a round-the-world privateering expedition. During this expedition his ship rescued Alexander Selkirk, the castaway who inspired Robinson Crusoe.