Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci was a famous 15th-century Italian explorer. Find out ten interesting facts about Amerigo Vespucci & discover Amerigo Vespucci’s significance.

10 Interesting Facts About Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian merchant, explorer, and navigator in the 15th century, whose discoveries shaped the world as we see it today. Here are ten interesting facts about Amerigo Vespucci:

  1. Vespucci and Christopher Columbus: In 1496, while working for the Medici family, Vespucci met and worked with Christopher Columbus. At this point, Columbus returned from his journey to the Americas. Columbus and Vespucci bonded over their shared love of exploration.
  2. Vespucci is said to have discovered Cape St. Augustine and the Amazon River: During his 1499 voyage to South America, after reaching the coast of Guyana, Vespucci turned south and found the mouth of the Amazon River. He is then believed to have traveled as far as Cape St. Augustine.
  3. Vespucci discovered Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Plata: Vespucci’s voyage to the Americas in 1501, which Gonçalo Coelho led, was arguably his most successful. On this voyage, Vespucci discovered Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Plata as he sailed along the coast of South America from Cape Sao Roque to Patagonia.
  4. America is the feminine version of the word Amerigas.
  5. A German cartographer was responsible for naming America: In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller, a German cartographer, created a world map using the information gathered during Columbus and Vespucci’s travels. He then named America using the Latin form of Vespucci’s first name, Americus and took the feminine version, America.
  6. Vespucci was the first person to identify the New World as a new continent: During his 1501 voyage, Vespucci was the first person to propose the idea that America was a completely different continent from Asia. He came to this conclusion as he realized that America was much larger and differently shaped from how Asia had been described. In 1502, Vespucci relayed his findings in a letter to his friend, Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de Medici, which is when the term ‘New World’ was coined.
  7. Vespucci named several constellations: On his voyage back from the New World in 1502, Vespucci named several constellations, including the Southern Cross.
  8. In 2012, a coin was minted in Vespucci’s memory.
  9. Vespucci is blamed for stealing peoples’ thunder: There is a significant amount of debate and controversy surrounding the letters that detail Vespucci’s achievements, and, as a result, many believe that he stole his discoveries from other explorers.
  10. Vespucci was awarded honorary Spanish Citizenship: In 1505, Vespucci was given the title of Pilot Major of Spain by King Ferdinand. This made Vespucci an honorary citizen of Spain.

Amerigo Vespucci: Early Life

Amerigo Vespucci was born in Florence, Italy, on the 9th of March 1454 to Nastagio Vespucci and Lisabetta Mini Vespucci. In childhood, Amerigo was heavily interested in books and maps, a fascination that would continue throughout his life. The Vespucci family held a high status in Florence then and were close friends with the famous Medicis, who ruled over Italy for over 300 years. Amerigo even worked for the Medicis as a banker and later as a supervisor of their ship-outfitting business. This job led him to move to Seville, Spain, in 1492.

During his time as supervisor of the Medici’s ship-outfitting business, Vespucci’s love of exploring grew. As part of his job, Vespucci would see the ships of renowned explorers at the time being prepared. This gave him invaluable insight into the actual business of exploration.

In the 15th century, European leaders utilized explorers to expand their empires and wealth. At this time, many explorers were focused on finding a northwest route to the Indies, as this would allow them to trade more easily and thus increase their country’s wealth. This was no easy feat, as voyages in the 15th century were much more arduous than nowadays. Just one trip could take years to complete. Furthermore, by the middle of the 15th century, most trade routes to Asia were controlled by Muslims. This meant they could charge whatever prices they liked for goods, both outgoing and incoming, and ships traveling to and from Europe and Asia. As a result of this monopoly on the existing trade routes, the need to find new ones increased greatly.

As part of his role in Seville, Vespucci worked closely with Christopher Columbus in setting up one of his first voyages. In 1496, the two men had the opportunity to talk with one another and discovered that they had much in common, including their love of exploration. This meeting with Columbus accelerated Vespucci’s interest in exploration and discovery. Moreover, Vespucci possessed many key skills in seafaring and exploration, such as cartography and astronomy. Finally, as people during the Renai

Vespucci’s First voyage

There is a dispute amongst historians over the date of Vespucci’s first official voyage. Some reports state that he set off in 1499 for the northern part of South America and the Amazon River. As he went, Vespucci gave names to the places he saw, such as the ‘Gulf of Ganges,’ as he still thought, like many explorers at this time, that he was in Asia. One of Vespucci’s great achievements was in improving celestial navigation techniques. He could even accurately estimate the Earth’s circumference within 50 miles.

Other historians look to a letter dated 1497 to suggest that this 1499 voyage to South America may have been Vespucci’s second trip. The letter is addressed to the Gonfalonier of Florence, a high official on Florence’s supreme executive council. In it are details of a voyage to the Bahamas and Central America. If the contents of this letter are correct, then Vespucci reached the mainland of the Americas over a year before Columbus did. However, some historians contest the authorship and contents of this letter and claim it to be a forgery.

Vespucci’s Most Successful Voyage

On the 14th of May, 1501, Vespucci set off for the New World. He voyaged along the coast of South America, all the way down to Patagonia, coming across the Rio de Janeiro and Rio de la Plata rivers. During this voyage, Vespucci began questioning whether he was entirely in Asia or a different place.

Vespucci was heavily inspired by the works of Marco Polo, who was a merchant and explorer in the 13th century. Polo’s accounts of his travels provided tremendous insight into the continent of Asia, especially concerning its geography, inhabitants, and the opportunities it possessed. During his explorations, Vespucci used Polo’s works as the basis of his assumptions.

One of the notable discoveries that Vespucci made when sailing around South America was that the sky contained different constellations that were not visible in Europe. Vespucci’s skills in cartography and astronomy came in very handy throughout his voyaging. On this 1501 trip, these skills led him to discover that the areas they explored proved larger and differently shaped than previous accounts of Asia. This discovery resulted in Vespucci concluding that he was entirely on a different continent. This suspicion was solidified when Vespucci was sailing to the southernmost point of South America, Tierra del Fuego. Again, Vespucci concluded that he was encountering a new continent that stretched much further than anyone had previously guessed.

Throughout this voyage, Vespucci wrote letters to a friend back in Europe, which detailed his travels and his profound discovery of the New World as a separate continent from Asia. These letters also contain many accounts of Vespucci’s interactions with the indigenous people in the New World and provide descriptions of their religious practices and beliefs, diet, marriage habits, and much more. These letters were published in many different languages and sold extremely well, even better than Columbus’ letters.

Vespucci embarked on other voyages throughout his life, none of which would be as successful as this one in 1501. In 1508, Vespucci was made a Pilot Major in Spain, a prestigious position. This position required using Vespucci’s incredible navigational skills, and throughout his time as a Pilot Major, he helped develop and standardize navigational techniques. He worked as a Pilot Major until his death on the 22nd of February 1512. Vespucci died of Malaria at around 58 years old.

Amerigo Vespucci’s significance and legacy

Amerigo Vespucci is remembered for several important reasons. First, he had a long career in sailing and explored many places. He also developed new technologies and methods for making sailing the world more accessible to other sailors. Here are just of the facts that show Amerigo Vespucci’s significance:

  • He was the first European sailor to explore the mouth of the mighty Amazon River
  • He developed a method for determining longitude while at sea; previously, sailors would use their reckoning and experience to determine their longitude. Instead, Vespucci was able to use a series of maps and celestial navigation to track the ship across the ocean safely.
  • He discovered the continent of America and was able to discern that it was a previously unknown continent, not Asia.

Who named America?

While it would be fair to assume that Vespucci named the new continent he had discovered after himself, it was called for later! It was first written down as America by a German clergyman, Martin Waldseemuller.

In 1507, Waldseemuller and other scholars worked on a cosmology book containing many large world maps. Aware of Amerigo Vespucci’s significance to America’s discovery, he suggested they be named after him. The maps were sold in great numbers, and the name was fixed into history.

Later on, in 1538, a cartographer called Gerardus Mercator gave the name “America” to both the northern and southern areas of the New World, and they have been known as North and South America since then.

Choose your Reaction!