Who Was the First European to Discover America? Many of us are off work and school celebrating Columbus Day today. Should we be celebrating Columbus or someone else? I use to think that Leif Eriksson discovered America after discovering Greenland with his father Erik the Red. According to some sources, there was a man named Bjarni Gerjulfsson that was blown off course on his way to Iceland and Greenland in 986 A.D. He is considered the first European to discover America. Although he never stopped, he spotted Cape Cod. It is also reported that he spotted Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Bjarni's trip was what inspired Leif Eriksson to explore and find America again.