- NAME: Amerigo Vespucci
- OCCUPATION: Explorer
- BIRTH DATE: c. 1454
- DEATH DATE: c. 1512
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Florence, Italy
- PLACE OF DEATH: Seville, Spain
- Full Name: Amerigo Vespucci
- Nickname: "Pickle Dealer"
- AKA: America’s namesake
Best Known For
America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine navigator and explorer who played a prominent role in exploring the New World.
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Explorer Amerigo Vespucci was born March 9, 1451, in Florence, Italy. On May 10, 1497, he embarked on his first voyage. On his third and most successful voyage, he discovered present-day Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Plata. Believing he had discovered a new continent, he called South America the New World. In 1507, America was named after him. He died of malaria in Seville, Spain, on February 22, 1512.
"They live together without king, without government, and each is his own master...Beyond the fact that they have no church, no religion and are not idolaters, what more can I say? They live according to nature, and may be called Epicureans rather than Stoics."
Navigator and explorer Amerigo Vespucci, the third son in a cultured family, was born on March 9, 1451, in Florence, Italy. Although born in Italy, Vespucci became a naturalized citizen of Spain in 1505.
Vespucci and his parents, Ser Nastagio and Lisabetta Mini, were friends of the wealthy and tempestuous Medici family, who ruled Italy from the 1400s to 1737. Vespucci's father worked as a notary in Florence. While his older brothers headed off to the University of Pisa in Tuscany, Vespucci received his early education from his paternal uncle, a Dominican friar named Giorgio Antonio Vespucci.
When Amerigo Vespucci was in his early 20s, another uncle, Guido Antonio Vespucci, gave him one of the first of his many jobs. Guido Antonio Vespucci, who was ambassador of Florence under King Louis XI of France, sent his nephew on a brief diplomatic mission to Paris. The trip likely awakened Vespucci's fascination with travel and exploration.
In the years before Vespucci embarked on his first voyage of exploration, he held a string of other jobs. When Vespucci was 24 years old, his father pressured him to go into business. Vespucci obliged. At first he undertook a variety of business endeavors in Florence. Later, he moved on to a banking business in Seville, Spain, where he formed a partnership with another man from Florence, named Gianetto Berardi. According to some accounts, from 1483 to 1492, Vespucci worked for the Medici family. During that time he is said to have learned that explorers were looking for a northwest passage though the Indies.
In the late 1490s, Vespucci became affiliated with merchants who supplied Christopher Columbus on his later voyages. In 1496, after Columbus returned from his voyage to America, Vespucci had the opportunity to meet him in Seville. The conversation piqued Vespucci's interest in seeing the world with his own eyes. By the late 1490s, Vespucci's business was struggling to make a profit anyway. Vespucci knew that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain were willing to fund subsequent voyages by other explorers. Then in his 40s, Vespucci, enticed by the prospect of fame, decided to leave his business behind and become an explorer before it was too late.
According to a letter that Vespucci might or might not have truly written, on May 10, 1497, he embarked on his first journey, departing from Cadiz with a fleet of Spanish ships. The controversial letter indicates that the ships sailed through the West Indies and made their way to the mainland of Central America within approximately five weeks.
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