Rowan Gavin Paton Menzies is a British author and retired submarine lieutenant commander. He is best known for his controversial book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, in which he asserts that the fleets of Chinese Admiral Zheng He visited the Americas prior to European explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492 and that the same fleet circumnavigated the globe a century before the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan.
Menzies' second book,1434: The Year a Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance extended his discovery hypothesis to the European continent. In his third book, The Lost Empire of Atlantis, Menzies claims that Atlantis existed in the form of the Minoan Civilization and maintained a global seaborne empire extending to the shores of America and India millennia before the actual contact in the Age of Discovery.
Menzies was born in London, England, and his family moved to China when he was three weeks old. He was educated at Orwell Park Prep School in Ipswich and Charterhouse School. Menzies joined the Royal Navy in 1953 and served from 1959 to 1970. Menzies claims that the knowledge of the winds, currents, and sea conditions he gained on a voyage he took was essential to reconstructing the 1421 Chinese voyage that he discusses in his first book.
Historians have rejected Menzies' theories and assertions and have categorized his work as pseudohistory. Although his novels are not claimed as historical fact, Tan Ta Sen, president of the Zheng He Society, has acknowledged the appeal of 1421 and stated: 'The book is very interesting, but you still need more evidence. We don't consider it a historical book but a narrative one. I want to see more proof. But at least Menzies has started something, and people could find more evidence.'