He became the first European explorer to sail around Australia and prove that it was a continent.
Daniel Defoe's classic novel Robinson Crusoe convinced him to dedicate his life to sea exploration.
His book, A Voyage to Terra Australis, became a popular read after his death.
He married Ann Chappelle in 1801. His father, also named Matthew, was a surgeon.
Early in his career, he voyaged to Tahiti under the leadership of Captain William Bligh.