SELKIRK (or SELCRAIG), ALEXANDER (1676– 1721), Scottish sailor, the prototype of "Robinson Crusoe," seventh son of John Selcraig, shoemaker and tanner of Largo, Fifeshire, was born in 1676. Having been summoned on Aug. 27, 1695, before the kirk-session for indecent behaviour in church, he "did not compear, being gone away to the seas." In May 1703 he joined Dampier in a privateering expedition to the South Seas, as sailing master on the "Cinque Ports" galley. In September 1704 the "Cinque Ports" put in at Juan Fernandez Island, west of Valparaiso ; here Selkirk had a dispute with his captain, Thomas Stradling, and at his own request was put ashore with a few ordinary necessaries. Before the ship left he begged to be readmitted, but this was refused, and Selkirk remained alone in Juan Fernandez over four years, till on Jan. 31, 1709, he was found, and on Feb. 12, taken off, by Captain Woodes Rogers, commander of the "Duke" privateer (with Dampier as pilot), who made him his mate and afterwards gave him com mand of one of his prizes, "The Increase" (March 29th). Selkirk returned to the Thames on Oct. 14, 1711; he was back at Largo in
1712 ; in 1717 he was again at sea, and in 1721 he died as master's mate of H.M.S. "Weymouth" (Dec. 12th).
See Woodes Rogers, Cruising Voyage round the World (1712), and Edward Cooke, Voyage in the South Sea and round the World (1712), the earliest descriptions of Selkirk's adventures ; also Providence Dis played, or a Surprising Account of one Alexander Selkirk . . . written by his own Hand (reprinted in Hart Miscell. for 181o, v. 429) ; and Funnell's Voyage round the World (1707). Steele made Selkirk's acquaintance, and gave a sketch of the adventurer and his story in the Englishman (Dec. 3, 1713). In 1719, shortly after a second edition of Rogers' Voyage had appeared (1718), Defoe published Robinson Cru soe, the idea of which is plainly derived from Selkirk's story.
The best modern biography is the Life and Adventures of Alexander Selkirk by John Howell (1829). In 1868 a tablet was put up on Juan Fernandez at a point on the hill road called "Selkirk's Look-out."