Amerigo Vespucci was a famous Italian explorer who sailed for Spain and Portugal. He is famous for being the first person to show that the new lands discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 were not the eastern portion of Asia but actually a separate continent, a New World as it would come to be called. This New World would come to be called "America"; taken from the Latin spelling of Vespucci's first name "Americus".
On this page is a list of interesting facts about the famous Italian Explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Information on this page, written for kids and adults, includes why America is named after him, where he explored, and provides a basic summary of who Amerigo Vespucci was.
Amerigo Vespucci Interesting Facts
- He was born in 1454 in Florence, Italy.
- As young man he was hired by the house of Medici, the largest bank in Europe at that time, and he pursued a career as a merchant. His interest in exploration and sailing did not come until later in life.
- He was sent to Spain in 1492 to look after his employer's business interests. This is where he got involved in shipping and became interested in exploration.
- Vespucci only published two texts (letters) in his life, they are called the 1504 Mundus Novus and the 1505 Letter of Soderini. Historians debate whether the letters were actually written by him or not. In the letters Vespucci describes four voyages, however only two of the voyages can be verified by other historical records. No matter who wrote them these letters were hugely popular and published in several languages. The letters are how many people in Europe first learned about the New World and what had been found there.
- Vespucci, although born in Italy, became a Spanish citizen.
- In 1508 he was appointed chief of navigation of Spain by Ferdinand II of Aragon. He was given the title Pilot Major of Spain and was responsible for planning voyages to the New World.
- In Spain Vespucci ran a school for navigators where he helped improve and standardize navigation techniques.
- Vespucci, was very confident of his navigational abilities and is quoted as saying "I was more skillful than all the shipmates of the whole world."
- He died from the deadly disease malaria on February 22nd of 1512 in Spain.
- It is an interesting and little known fact of how America came to be named after Amerigo Vespucci. In a 1507 map of the world created by the famous map maker Martin Waldseemuller the New World is named "America", the Latin spelling of Vespucci's first name, in honor of Amerigo Vespucci. This name became popular and has been used ever since.
The Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci
- As noted above just how many voyages to America (the New World) Amerigo Vespucci made is in question. In two letters supposedly written by Vespucci four voyages are described; but historians question the authenticity of these letters. The earliest voyage and the latest voyage mentioned in these letters are in question.
- In Vespucci's letters a voyage to the New World which left Spain in 1497 is described. If this voyage actually took place it would have been his first voyage to America. The letter explains that he observed the natives and noted many of their customs, like the use of sweat lodges. The voyage is reported as returning to Spain in October of 1498.
- The second noted voyage has been verified by historians and left Spain in 1499 AD. Vespucci was part of an expedition sponsored by Spain and led by the famous Spanish navigator and conquistador, Alonso de Ojeda. Vespucci sailed along the coast of South America, along the way he discovered the mouth of the Amazon River.
- In 1501 Vespucci sailed once again to the New World, this time in the service of Portugal. This voyage, which has been verified by historians, was led by the Portuguese explorer Gonçalo Coelho. The fleet sailed along the coast of South America. This voyage is where Vespucci realized the lands they were exploring were not Asia. He noted the features of the land and the native people were very different from written accounts of Asia concluding that it was a separate, previously unknown continent, a New World.
- Vespucci's last voyage to the New World, which like his first voyage is disputed to have taken place, is said to have begun in 1503. This voyage like his voyage in 1501 was in the service of Portugal. This expedition explored the eastern coast of Brazil.