He was born in Gillingham, Kent, England. William's father died when his at age 12. He apprenticed to a shipwright, and studied shipbuilding, astronomy, and navigation. He joined the Royal Navy during Anglo-Spanish War. He served in the Royal Navy under Sir Francis Drake. He became a pilot for the Barbary Company, a trading company established by Queen Elizabeth I of England.
In 1598, Adams shipped as pilot major with a five-ship fleet. The fleet was owned by a company of Rotterdam merchants (Dutch East India Company). The fleet went from the isle of Texel, North Holland to the Eastern world.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Adams, William.|