- 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
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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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If the letter is authentic, this would mean that Vespucci discovered Venezuela a year before Christopher Columbus did. Vespucci and his fleets arrived back in Cadiz in October 1498.
In May of 1499, sailing under the Spanish flag, Vespucci embarked on his next expedition, as a navigator under the command of Alonzo de Ojeda. Crossing the equator, they traveled to the coast of what is now Guyana,
where it is believed that Vespucci left Ojeda and went on to explore the coast of Brazil. During this journey Vespucci is said to have discovered the Amazon River and Cape St. Augustine.
On May 14, 1501, Vespucci departed on another trans-Atlantic journey. Now on his third voyage, Vespucci set sail for Cape Verde—this time in service to King Manuel I of Portugal. Vespucci's third voyage is largely considered his most successful. While Vespucci did not start out commanding the expedition, when Portuguese officers asked him to take charge of the voyage he agreed. Vespucci's ships sailed along the coast of South America from Cape São Roque to Patagonia. Along the way, they discovered present-day Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Plata. Vespucci and his fleets headed back via Sierra Leone and the Azores. Believing he had discovered a new continent, in a letter to Florence, Vespucci called South America the New World. His claim was largely based on Christopher Columbus' earlier conclusion: In 1498, when passing the mouth of the Orinoco River, Columbus had determined that such a big outpouring of fresh water must come from land "of continental proportions." Vespucci decided to start recording his accomplishments, writing that accounts of his voyages would allow him to leave "some fame behind me after I die."
On June 10, 1503, sailing again under the Portuguese flag, Vespucci, accompanied by Gonzal Coelho, headed back to Brazil. When the expedition didn't make any new discoveries, the fleet disbanded. To Vespucci's chagrin, the commander of the Portuguese ship was suddenly nowhere to be found. Despite the circumstances, Vespucci forged ahead, managing to discover Bahia and the island of South Georgia in the process. Soon after, he was forced to prematurely abort the voyage and return to Lisbon, Portugal, in 1504.
There is some speculation as to whether Vespucci made additional voyages. Based on Vespucci's accounts, some historians believe that he embarked on a fifth and sixth voyage with Juan de la Cosa, in 1505 and 1507, respectively. Other accounts indicate that Vespucci's fourth journey was his last.
In 1507, some scholars at Saint-Dié-des-Vosges in northern France were working on a geography book called Cosmographiæ Introductio, which contained large cut-out maps that the reader could use to create his or her own globes. German cartographer Martin Waldseemüler, one of the book's authors, proposed that the newly discovered Brazilian portion of the New World be labeled America, the feminine version of the name Amerigo, after Amerigo Vespucci. The gesture was his means of honoring the person who discovered it, and indeed granted Vespucci the legacy of being America's namesake.
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Throughout the centuries, brave explorers have fearlessly traveled the globe and beyond to discover new lands, people, animal species, riches and glory. Ferdinand Magellan of Portugal proved the world is round with his mission to sail around the world. His fellow countryman Vasco da Gama commanded the first European ship around the southern tip of Africa to reach India by sea. Norseman Leif Eriksson is regarded as the first European to reach North America, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus, who is credited with discovering the “New World” of the Americas. Juan Ponce de León scoured Puerto Rico and Florida in his quest for the fountain of youth. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark blazed new trails during their Corps of Discovery Expedition across the western half of the United States. Traveling to new heights of discovery were mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest, and U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. These intrepid explorers and more have made an indelible mark on human history. See all Explorers.
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