Prince Henry the Navigator (d. 1460) is one of those Portuguese guys you spend a few minutes on in high school history class in the US at the start of the Age of Discovery unit, in the rush to get to Columbus. But he’s a much more consequential figure than generally regarded. The explorations Henry sponsored were the first Portuguese voyages along the Atlantic coast of Africa, and later explorers like Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama built on those discoveries in eventually voyaging around Africa and on to India. Without the success of those voyages Columbus’s idea of sailing west across the Atlantic to China would probably have seemed pointless to the proto-Spanish rulers Ferdinand and Isabella. Henry can thus be considered the father, or one of the fathers, of the Age of Discovery.
Source: Today in North African history: the Battle of Tangier ends (1437)