Vespucci, Amerigo

Vespucci, Amerigo

biographical name


Amerigo Vespucci, portrait by an unknown artist; in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.—Alinari/Art Resource, New York

(born 1454?, Florence—died 1512, Sevilla) Italian-born Spanish navigator and explorer of the New World. He entered the Medici family business and in 1491 was sent to Sevilla, where he helped outfit the ships for the expeditions of Christopher Columbus. By 1496 he was manager of the Sevilla agency. He took part in two (or four—the number is disputed) voyages to the New World; he was navigator on a Spanish expedition (1499–1500) that probably discovered the mouth of the Amazon River, and he led a Portuguese expedition (1501–02) that discovered Guanabara Bay (Rio de Janeiro) and the Río de la Plata. In the accounts of the voyages (published 1507), the terms America and New World were first used to describe the lands visited by Amerigo Vespucci (in Latin, Americus Vespucius). As chief navigator for the Sevilla-based Commercial House for the West Indies (from 1508), he prepared maps of newly discovered lands from data supplied by ships' captains.

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