People Who Changed the World: Explorer Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian explorer, cartographer, and navigator, and one of the most significant figures in geographical history. He explored the newly discovered continents of America and provided the first maps and vital information of lands. Vespucci was born in Florence, Italy in 1454 and was the son of a notary. Vespucci is credited for several contributions to geography. Additionally, North and South America are named after the Italian explorer.

There is no evidence that shows that Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus were ever friends. Although both of these historical men were born during the same period, their expeditions led them to different locations around the world. Christopher Columbus had four voyages that led him to the island of San Salvador, now known as the Bahamas. Following this, he visited Hispaniola and Cuba, and finally to Lisbon and the harbor of Palos. On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus was the first person to reach land in the Bahamas to the west of America. He was followed by several others including Vespucci who were searching for the passage to the Indies. Amerigo Vespucci also had four voyages that led him to different parts of the New World including Brazil, Guyana, and other areas of South America.

Vespucci embarked on many explorations and is recognized as one of the earliest explorers of the New World. He left for his first voyage from Spain in May of 1497 and returned in 1498. He had a lengthy visit to the New World, as discovered in a letter published in 1504 written to Soderini. His second voyage began when Vespucci participated in an expedition in the service of Spain. His goal was to sail the Indian Ocean from the southern end of Africa. He then sailed southward to discover the mouth of the Amazon River before turning into Trinidad. In 1501, Vespucci’s third voyage was led by Goncalo Coelho in the service of Portugal. He first sailed to Cape Verde in hopes that he would explore the same lands that Alvares Cabral had visited. Vespucci mapped Beta Centuauri and Alpha from the first half of his expedition, as well as the constellation Crux. Little is known about his final voyage that lasted from 1503 to 1504. Some historians believe that this and his other several voyages never took place.

As a prolific writer, Vespucci wrote many stories and letters to his friends in Europe and Spain. He described the new places that he had explored and the indigenous people that he encountered. He gave detailed descriptions of their unique childbirth habits and marriage traditions that became popular among readers in Europe.

Use the following resources to learn more about Amerigo Vespucci, his explorations, and his importance to the history of America.