FLORENCE, ITALY – The Florentine navigator Amerigo Vespucci died 500 years ago. Today Italy (especially the city of Florence) and the US are celebrating him as one of the major historical figures who helped to discover America.
Amerigo Vespucci was born March 9, 1454 in Florence, Italy. He was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator and cartographer. The name “America” are generally believed to have derived from the feminized Latin version of his first name, Amerigo.
Vespucci was the third son of a Florentine notary, Anastasio, and Elisabetta Mini. He was educated by his uncle in the Dominican church of San Marco in Florence. After the studies, he embraced a mercantile life for the house of Medici, headed by Lorenzo de Medici.
At the invitation of king Manuel I of Portugal, Vespucci participated as observer in three (or maybe four) voyages that explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502. On the first of these voyages he was aboard the ship that discovered that South America was much further extended than previously thought. In 1507, the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent “America”.
Vespucci died on February 22, 1512 in Seville, Spain. To this day no one knows the true reasons for his death.