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, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.