Who was Amerigo Vespucci and what did he discover?

1 Answer
Jun 15, 2018

Amerigo Vespucci was a Florentine explorer and navigator who first determined that the east coast of North Amercia was part of a seperate landmass from Asia.


"America" largely results from the Latin version of Americao Vespucci's first name. Born in Florence in 1454, he was originally a merchant and entrepreneur but started to serve both the Portuguese and Spanish governments as a navigator.

In 1497-1504 Vespucci determined that the coast of South America extended much further than Cristopher Columbus had thought, and argued (in a widely circulated series of letters) that this meant South America might be a major landmass that was not connected to Asia.

Like many of his contemporaries (and other explorers), Vespucci was a little bit of a huckster, and some of his accomplishments on his four voyages may be questionable. Moreover, subsequent claims by others added to his lustre -- partly due to a scholarly debate over whether it was Vespucci or Columbus who truely discovered America.

Regardless, it remains that Columbus believed his discoveries were outlying parts of Asia, but Vespucci argued -- successfully that there was a major landmass, a continent in its own right, to the west of Europe and the east of Asia. Europe's leading cartographer Martin Waldseemüller named this land mass "America" in Vespucci's honor. Vespucci died in 1512.