Biography of Americo Vespucio
Italian navigator born in 1454 in Florence, died in 1512 in Seville.
Born in...: Montefioralle (Italy) , March 9, 1454
Died February 22, 151
Americo Vespucio (or Americ Vespuce) was a merchant, jeweler and navigator from Florence, Italy.
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Beginning of the trips
He was the first to hypothesize that the coast of South America was a new continent when all the sailors of the time, including Christopher Columbus, thought they were going to land in Asia.
It was from his first name that the proper name "America" was created on the initiative of Martin Waldseemüller, a German cartographer based in Saint-Dié (Vosges).
After receiving a humanistic education, Amerigo Vespucci entered the service of Laurent de Medici's bank.
At the end of 1491, de Medici sent him to Seville to one of his companies run by a shipowner named Giannotto Berardi.
Vespucci was probably still in town when Christopher Columbus returned from his first expedition.
Together with Berardi, he prepared the ships for Columbus' second and third voyages and took over the company's business when Berardi died in late 1495 or early 1496.
The exact number of trips Vespucci made between 1497 and 1504 is unknown, but a first series of letters mentions four trips, while a second one mentions only two.
The first documented voyage, between May 1499 and June 1500, brought together four ships that had left Spain under the command of Alonso de Ojeda. Vespucio, loaded with a ship, left Ojeda after reaching the coast of French Guiana.
Heading south, he seems to have discovered the mouth of the Amazon. On the way back, he reached Trinidad and saw the mouth of the Orinoco River before heading to Haiti.
Vespucci then thinks that he has bordered the coast of an eastern peninsula in Asia. On his return to Spain, he puts together a new expedition in the hope of reaching the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the island of Taprobane (Ceylon). But the Spanish government rejected his proposal and, at the end of 1500, Vespucio put himself at the service of Portugal.
He left Lisbon in May 1501, beginning his second journey. After a stopover in the Cape Verde Islands, the expedition sailed southwest and reached the Brazilian coast not far from Cape Saint-Augustin.
The route he followed at that time is not attested to, but Vespucio claims to have continued south.
Today, everyone remembers the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. History has taught us that Columbus landed in October 1492, believing he had discovered the Indies.
But we owe the word America to another man: Americo Vespucci. To understand this, let's go back to the course of history...
Christopher Columbus was the first navigator to cross the Atlantic whose travels were attested to by writings and material evidence.
At that time he worked in the service of the Catholic Kings of Spain. On his return from his first expedition, which made him discover this new continent, Christopher Columbus was received as a hero.
You are then instructed to bring back the spices and gold. However, the attempt to colonize the area failed and the gold did not arrive in sufficient quantities to develop the trade.
Therefore, the famous navigator became unpopular and his privileges were taken away. He died in May 1506, still convinced that he had discovered Asia.
Americo Vespucio, who had worked on the preparation of Columbus' voyages and was passionate about his discoveries, said that the land in question could not be a territory of Asia and that it was a "new world". So he planned a new voyage of exploration in 1499.
Several letters are written to describe their findings on local customs, but these are still discussed by historians.
In 1507, a re-edition of Ptolemy's Cosmography was launched and geographer Martin Waldseemüller was commissioned to draw and record the maps.
He remembered that the "new world" had been described by Vespucci and decided to name these new lands Americo or America, in his honor.
In the end, Colombia could have been the name of a whole continent, if a geography expert had not decided to give back to Caesar what belongs to him.