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Facts about Amerigo Vespucci for Kids


Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator and cartographer who first demonstrated that Brazil and the West Indies did not represent Asia’s eastern outskirts as initially conjectured from Columbus’ voyages, but instead constituted an entirely separate landmass hitherto unknown to Afro-Eurasians.

  • Colloquially referred to as the New World, this second super continent came to be termed “America”, probably deriving its name from the feminized Latin version of Vespucci’s first name.
  • Amerigo Vespucci was born and raised in Florence, Italy.
  • Amerigo Vespucci was educated by his uncle, Fra Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, a Dominican friar of San Marco in Florence.
  • While his elder brothers were sent to the University of Pisa to pursue scholarly careers, Amerigo Vespucci embraced a mercantile life, and was hired as a clerk by the Florentine commercial house of Medici, headed by Lorenzo de Medici.
  • In March 1492, the Medici dispatched the thirty-eight year old Vespucci and Donato Niccolini as confidential agents to look into the Medici branch office in Cadiz (Spain), whose managers and dealings were under suspicion.
  • In April, 1495, by the intrigues of Bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca, the Crown of Castile broke their monopoly deal with Christopher Columbus and began handing out licenses to other navigators for the West Indies.
  • After these were delivered, Vespucci continued as a provision contractor for Indies expeditions, and is known to have secured beef supplies for at least one (if not two) of Columbus’s voyages.
  • At the invitation of king Manuel I of Portugal, Vespucci participated as observer in several voyages that explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502.
  • However, the rediscovery in the 18th century of other letters by Vespucci, primarily the Soderini Letter, has led to the view that the early published accounts could be fabrications, not by Vespucci, but by others.
  • In 1508, after only two voyages to the Americas, the position of chief of navigation of Spain (piloto mayor de Indias) was created for Vespucci, with the responsibility of planning navigation for voyages to the Indies.
  • Mundus Novus (New World) was a Latin translation of a lost Italian letter sent from Lisbon to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici.
  • A Latin translation was published by the German Martin Waldseemüller in 1507 in Cosmographiae Introductio, a book on cosmography and geography, as Quattuor Americi Vespuccij navigationes .It was the publication and widespread circulation of the letters that might have led Martin Waldseemüller to name the new continent America on his world map of 1507 in Lorraine.
  • Vespucci’s real historical importance may well rest more in his letters, whether he wrote them all or not, than in his discoveries.
  • From these letters, the European public learned about the newly discovered continents of the Americas for the first time; its existence became generally known throughout Europe within a few years of the letters’ publication.
  • A letter published in 1504 purports to be an account by Vespucci, written to Soderini, of a lengthy visit to the New World, leaving Spain in May 1497 and returning in October 1498.
  • After hitting land at the coast of what is now Guyana, the two seem to have separated.
  • In a letter from Cape Verde, Vespucci says that he hopes to visit the same lands that Álvares Cabral had explored, suggesting that the intention is to sail west to Asia, as on the 1499-1500 voyage.