From the Book:
The New World Discoverers
The man from whom North and South America take their name made four documented voyages of discovery to the New World. The first departed from Cadiz, Spain on May 10, 1497. This episode discusses that voyage.
Vespucci would make three more, the fourth of which he would correctly surmise what many already suspected. The lands Columbus discovered were not Asia. They were a previously unknown continent that blocked the Europeans much sought after path to Asia.
Amerigo Vespucci (March 9, 1454 – February 22, 1512)
The third son of Nastagio Vespucci and Lisabetta Mini was born in Florence Italy. Amerigo received his education from his uncle, Giorgio Antonio Vespucci. Giorgio was a Dominican friar of the monastery of San Marco. Amerigo first worked as a clerk for the Florentine commercial House of Medici. During the course of his life, he would be an explorer, financier, navigator and cartographer. The Medici’s sent him to Cadiz, Spain in 1492 to investigate the operations of their office. During his time in Cadiz, he became involved in provisioning ships. He probably acquired the provisions for one or two of Columbus’ voyages and probably met Columbus at one point. According to accounts, it was one of these conversations that awakened the desire to become a discoverer. Thus, at forty-three years old, Vespucci decided to pursue his new dream.
The First Voyage
Historians dispute the facts of the first voyage, which are based on a letter that someone may have forged. If true, Vespucci’s flotilla of four ships departed Cadiz on May 10, 1497 and passed through the East Indies. It reached the coast of Venezuela sooner than Columbus did. However, there are problems with the dates and geographic locations in the letter. The issues have not been resolved and many feel that this one did not take place.
Vespucci’s suspicions grew the second and third voyages. He soon surmised that the lands Columbus discovered were not Asia. The third voyage reached as far south as Rio de Janeiro. Vespucci claimed to have reached Patagonia’s longitude. No one has verified this. Indeed, there are many of the details of these voyages that no one can ascertain, but there is much that can. Scholars and historians have been arguing these details for decades. They will probably debate forever about them. Vespucci recorded the details of his voyages in a series of letters that became published.
These letters circulated around Europe and came to the attention of a German scholar who was preparing to publish a new map. Martin Waldseemuller read Vespucci’s written accounts of his voyages. He produced a map that depicted a land mass with a northern and southern portions. He labeled the southern portion “America” using the feminized Latin version of Vespucci’s name. The name stuck. It was later mapmakers that applied the name to both North and South America.
This story is exerpted from my book, The New World Discoverers. Listeners can find the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other online retailers. You can also buy the book direct from me on my website, http://www.mossyfeetbooks.com. You can contact me an firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for listening.
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