Amerigo Vespucci was born on March 9, 1451 in Florence. He was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator and cartographer. He played a prominent role in exploring the New World – he demonstrated that the New World was not Asia but an unknown new continent.
Vespucci was the first to include the names of North America and South America as distinct continents that were previously unknown to Europeans, Asians and Africans. The name ‘America’ derives from the Latin version of the first name of Amerigo Vespucci.
Amerigo Vespucci, inspired by the successful voyages of Columbus, sailed with three ships in May of 1497. Sailing west, for a little more than a month, Vespucci landed in either Guiana or Brazil, and may have entered the Gulf of Mexico, as well as sailing along the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
He later sailed to the New World on three more occasions and explored a large portion of the coasts of both North and South America. The first two voyages were under the direction of Spain, the last two as a Portuguese expedition.
As a young man, he studied physics, geometry, astronomy and cosmography, subjects in which he excelled. In 1504, a book of maps gave the name of the New World – ‘America’. The author argued that since the three known continents, Europe, Asia and Africa, all had names of women, that it was proper to give the new continent a woman’s name, too.
America was chosen, after the baptismal name of Vespucci.
Vespucci died of malaria in Seville on February 22,1512. He contracted malaria during his explorations of South America.