Thomas Harriot (c. 1560 – 2 July 1621) was an English astronomer, mathematician, ethnographer and translator. He also known for his contributions in navigational techniques, having worked closely with artist and cartographer John White to create navigational charts. Despite his accomplishments he is obscure, having published only his 1588 The Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia . This firsthand description of the first English colony in Virginia would be accompanied by the famous White/ De Bry Americae pars, Nunc Virginia, which was the first detailed map of any European colony in North America. It is very probable that Harriot's 'discovery' of the region around the colony involved his own detailed survey of it, and that the results of those surveys were recorded on White's map.

Born in 1560, Harriot graduated from St. Mary Hall in Oxford, earning a bachelor's degree and thereafter studying navigation, specifically applied to sailing open seas and the challenge of crossing the Atlantic to the New World. Thereafter he was hired by Sir Walter Raleigh to aid in the preparations for, and to accompany the 1585 voyage to colonize Virginia. Despite only attending the first of the Raleigh-funded expeditions to Virginia, he would learn the Algonquian language enough to translate it, and to question natives about life in the New World, and native impressions of Europeans and their technology. Harriot's account of the voyage - A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia - would be broadly influential, but it was not followed up by further publications. Harriot is sometimes credited with the introduction of the potato to the British Isles, and it is understood that Harriot was the first person to make a drawing of the Moon through a telescope, over four months before Galileo. His notes reflect early observations of Halley's Comet, and sunspots as well. He corresponded with Kepler on optics. It is likely that Harriot's obscurity can be blamed on the fall from favor of his patrons, many of whom were imprisoned or otherwise implicated in the Gunpowder Plot. Harriot died in 1621, likely of a cancer which began to trouble him in 1615 or 1616, possibly pursuant to his early adoption of the tobacco habit.