Amerigo Vespucci

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Amerigo Vespucci
BirthplaceFlorence, Republic of Florence, in present-day Italy
NationalityItalian, Florentine
Merchant, Explorer, Cartographer
Known for Demonstrating that the New World was not Asia but a previously-unknown fourth continent.[a]

Vespucci, Amerigo

(ämārē`gō vāspo͞ot`chē), 1454–1512, Italian navigator in whose honor America was named, b. Florence. He entered the commercial service of the Medici and in 1492 moved to Seville. He accompanied Alonso de OjedaOjeda, Alonso de
, c.1466–1515?, Spanish conquistador. He joined Columbus on his second voyage and in 1499—at first accompanied by Vespucci—explored the northeastern coast of South America. In 1508 he was made governor of territories of N South America.
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 in 1499, but by agreement the two separated shortly before land was sighted in the West Indies, and Vespucci alone explored the mouths of the Amazon. Subsequently he sailed along the northern shore of South America and among the islands. He returned to Spain in 1500, and in 1501 he entered Portuguese service to explore the southern coast of South America. Vespucci found the mouth of the Río de la Plata and probably went as far as lat. 50°S. He explored c.6,000 mi (9,700 km) of coastline, but it is in the scientific application of his discoveries that his achievements are remarkable. He evolved a system for computing nearly exact longitude (previously determined by dead reckoning); he arrived at a figure for the earth's equatorial circumference only 50 mi (80 km) short of the correct measurement. Vespucci accepted South America as a new continent, not part of Asia. Consequently cosmography was radically altered, and in 1507, with the publication of Martin Waldseemüller's Cosmographiae introductio, the name America first appeared as applied to the continent. His voyage completed in 1502, Vespucci returned to Spain, where in 1508 he was made pilot major, a high and prestigious position. He died of malaria contracted on his voyages. Vespucci's achievements were long belittled by scholars, but the conclusions of Alberto Magnaghi in the 1920s and 30s are now widely accepted, and the pilot major is given his due. An edition of Vespucci's letters and other documents appeared in English in 1894.


See biographies by G. Arciniegas (tr. 1955), F. J. Pohl (1966), and F. Fernández-Armesto (2007); J. B. Thacher, The Continent of America (1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vespucci, Amerigo


Born between 1451 and 1454 in Florence, Italy. Died Feb. 22, 1512, in Seville. A navigator.

For many years Vespucci was a petty clerk in the banking house of Medici and an agent of that firm in Seville. From May 1499 to September 1500 he was in the Spanish naval service and from the spring of 1501 to June 1504, in the Portuguese. Then he returned to Spain and from 1508 to 1512 held the post of pilot major in Castile. Between 1499 and 1504, Vespucci took part in several expeditions to the coasts of the New World. Vespucci’s letters about these travels became renowned and were republished several times between 1505 and 1510. The Lotharingian cartographer M. Waldseemüller ascribed the discovery of “one-fourth of the world,” made by Columbus, to Vespucci and proposed that the continent be named America in honor of Amerigo Vespucci. This name was soon generally accepted for South America, and on Mercator’s map of 1538 it was first applied to North America as well.


Magnaghi, A. Amerigo Vespucci. Rome, 1926.
Arciniegas, G. Amerigo y el Nuevo Mundo. Mexico City [1955].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Vespucci, Amerigo

(1454–1512) Italian navigator-explorer from whose name America is derived. [Am. Hist.: EB, X: 410]
See: America
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The three-mast school ship was named after the famous explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. It started to be built in 1920 and was launched in 1931.
Russell's meticulous introduction gives indispensable biographical information as well as important historical and pseudohistorical contexts for various episodes in the poem, including the anachronistic appearance of Amerigo Vespucci as part of the Italian fleet.
President Jacky Swansinger, Fredonia, and Vice-President Sherri West, Brookdale Community College, conducted an after-lunch discussion, "What Works in the World History Classroom." The dinner speaker was Professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Tufts University, who gave an animated presentation on Amerigo Vespucci, "The Man Who Gave His Name to America," in conjunction with his recently published book and in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of America receiving its name.
In the days ahead, I challenged students with the mission of applying their thinking skills to examine the lives of Hernan Cortes, Hernando De Soto, and Amerigo Vespucci to determine each man's worthiness of having a fifth grade team named after him.
Americans, Native Americans, not to mention the two continents as well as this magazine, are named after Italian navigator and mapmaker Amerigo Vespucci. Luckily we weren't named after Rand McNally; we'd be called Rand-McNallians.
Stanley was a great explorer--one of the very greatest--and no one has ever denied his technical achievements, as they have with, say, Marco Polo or Amerigo Vespucci. But as a human being he was a disaster.
This may be a clever device to underpin the sometimes voiced notion that all peoples in the Western Hemisphere are Americans, the two continents having been named for Amerigo Vespucci, the other Italian explorer of the new world.
The earliest European records of the Magellanic Clouds appear to be those of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451-1512).
Half an hour earlier, a mammoth pounds 17,710 was traded on Pillars Of Wisdom at 1.12 on Betfair before Frankie Dettori and Amerigo Vespucci (high of 20 for small money) scorched home for a narrow win.
Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci also sought a perfected world in a distant place in their own era of geographical rather than metaphysical space.