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Biography of Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci was born in the Republic of Florence, now Italy, on March 9, 1451. He was an explorer and cartographer and is responsible for the name 'America' given to the continent. It is in fact a feminine Latin version of 'Amerigo'.
Biography of Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci was a daring seafarer who led a number of voyages to explore South America. He explored the eastern coast extensively between 1499 and 1502. It was during this time that he discovered that the continent extended further than the landmass on record and discovered what we now know as the Indies. Vespucci's voyages were widely known all over Europe through his published accounts. It was not until 1507 that cartographer Martin Waldseemüller generated a revised world map that highlighted the new continent and named it America after the explorer's first name.

Vespucci was commissioned by King Ferdinand to start a school for navigators, standardize and modernize techniques then used in navigation and develop an accurate method of determining longitude. There was much controversy that revolved around claims that Amerigo Vespucci was trying to usurp the glory of Christopher Columbus. However, the air was cleared in time and the Italian explorer was immortalized through the name awarded to the continent that lay north of the already known continents, South America.

The Amerigo Vespucci biography highlights the fact that he is recognized as one of the earliest explorers of the New World. He was educated by his uncle and introduced to the business of seafaring and trade. His trading business took him to Portugal and from there halfway across the globe. As a skilled navigator, he consistently planned shorter routes to Asia, mapped across Central and South America and Venezuela and Brazil.

He embarked on many explorations of the regions in and around South America while he worked for the brothers Lorenzo de' Medici and Giovanni. He was relocated to their agency in Spain in 1492. He earned the designation of 'Chief of Navigation of Spain' or 'Piloto Mayor de Indias' in 1508 and was put in charge of planning ocean voyages. In his entire lifetime, Amerigo Vespucci highlighted his explorations of the New World in two letters.

His letters were both published, with the first one being Mundus Novus or New World, an account sent from Lisbon to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, describing a voyage to South America between 1501 and 1502. The second one was Lettera di Amerigo Vespucci delle isole nuovamente trovate in quattro suoi viaggi or 'Lettera al Soderini', an account on the newly discovered isles off the coast of the New World. This letter was addressed to Piero Soderini and was printed in 1504, highlighting Vespucci's voyages to the Americas between 1497 and 1504.

Between 1499 and 1500, Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda sailed to determine a route around the southern tip of Africa, towards the Indian Ocean. However, the teamwork came to an end as the two explorers reached what we now know as Guyana. Vespucci continued to sail southward and discovered the Amazon River, Trinidad and the Orinoco River. He successfully took the Hispaniola route back to Spain. Thereafter, on the voyage led by Gonçalo Coelho between 1501 and 1502, Vespucci's published account claims that the crew first sailed to Cape Verde, then the coast of Brazil and finally, the Rio de Janeiro bay. However, the account is shrouded by controversy since the estuary of the Río de la Plata is not mentioned at all.

After many explorations, Amerigo became Master Navigator at Seville and continued in that position until his death in 1512. His commitment to the development of books and maps on navigation remains unparalleled. Vespucci's calculations on distance covered were mostly based on the conjunction of Mars with the Moon. His published accounts are a rich source of information on the culture of indigenous people he met and interacted with. They offer us an insight into their diet, religion and even childbirth practices. The Carta Mariana, a wood block map, was printed by Waldseemuller in honor of Vespucci's last few explorations of the New World.
By Gaynor Borade
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