Amerigo Vespucci: America’s Namesake



Amerigo Vespucci was born March 4, 1451 or 1454 (scholars say different things) in Florence, Italy to Lisabetta Mini and Nastagio Vespucci. In 1479, Vespucci was sent by the Medici family to be a spokesman to the French king. Later on, Vespucci helped with the preparation for Christopher Columbus’s second trip. After Baradi had died, Vespucci was the manager of the Sevilla agency.

Vespucci’s first voyage was in May 1497. Not much is known about his first voyage. Some scholars even believe it did not happen in the first place. If it had, Vespucci would have returned home in October, 1498. The only proof of this voyage is a published letter.

Next, he joined a voyage headed from Spain in about 1499-1500. The plan was to sail around Southern Africa into the Indian Ocean. After the ships hit the coast of Guyana, Vespucci went a different way than Alonso de Ojeda. Vespucci found the mouth of the Amazon river when they sailed south. They also came across Trinidad and the Orinoco River. From there, the ship returned to Spain by Hispaniola.

The third voyage Vespucci sailed was led by Gonçalo Coelho in 1501-1502 from Portugal. The ship left from Lisbon and sailed to Cape Verde. Soon, the crew reached Brazil. They sailed along the coast of South America until reaching the bay in Rio de Janeiro. It is unsure of whether or not they reached Patagonia as it is not described by Vespucci, but it is said they reached the latitude. As the ship was making its way back to Lisbon, Vespucci wrote a letter to Medici stating that the lands they sailed to where different than what Asia was described as. Vespucci suggested that perhaps they had sailed to a new continent rather than Asia.

Scholars are unsure if Vespucci ever sailed a fourth voyage. If he had, the ship would have left Portugal in May 1503 and returned in June 1504. Portuguese documents do prove this voyage was in fact sailed. Although, the only proof of Vespucci attending the voyage is a letter he wrote. Like the letter from his first voyage, it may have been fake. Vespucci may have been on the voyage though. Some scholars and historians may even say that he sailed a fifth and sixth voyage.

America was named for Amerigo Vespucci because he was the first one noted to have discovered that America was a different continent and not Asia. Originally, the name America was only used for South America, but in the mid 1500’s a cartographer gave the name to North America as well.

Amerigo Vespucci died on February 22, 1512 due to malaria while he was in Seville, Spain. Vespucci was 57, nearly 58.