06 Amerigo Vespucci
Amerigo Vespucci (1451-1512) came from a prominent family in Florence, Italy. In 1492, Vespucci was sent to Spain for business reasons. While in Spain, Vespucci started working on ships and became the navigator of an expedition in 1499. During this trip, Vespucci reached the mouth of the Amazon and the northern coast of South America. Vespucci went on a second trip to America in 1501, but this time, Vespucci travelled south, exploring the coast of South America, coming within 400 miles of Tierra del Fuego. During this trip, Vespucci wrote letters to a friend, and Vespucci's descriptions of his travels were the first to identify the Americas as a separate continent from Asia. Along with this information, Vespucci also described the culture of the natives of America. In 1508, Vespucci was named Pilot Major of Spain, promoting his fame. Martin Waldseemuller was a German scholar read of Vespucci's travels. He also thought that the New World was separate from Asia, so when Waldseemuller made a wood block map of the world known as the Carta Mariana, he used Vespucci's first name, which is America in German, as the name of the New World. The map sold around 1000 copies, and the name stayed. Vespucci earns many points for identifying the Americas as a separate land mass from Asia and for having two continents named after him. Vespucci died of Malaria in 1512 after a third trip to America.