Explorer Bios: Amerigo Vespucci

Amerigo Vespucci
Vespucci (Source).
  • Amerigo Vespucci (1454 – 1512). An Italian merchant, explorer, and navigator, Vespucci took part in at least two early voyages to the Americas, one for Spain (1499 – 1500) reaching the northeastern tip of South America and one for Portugal (1501 –1502) that brought him to Brazil. The name of the Americas was derived from Vespucci's given name. While Christopher Columbus and others believed the early Spanish fleets had reached islands on the eastern edge of Asia, with China not far beyond, Vespucci was one of the first to argue that they had in fact found a continent that he called the New World. In 1507, the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller created the first world map to show the Americas as a continent, and needing to label the landmass, he added the name Amerigo (Vespucci) in Latin, spelled AMERICA. Over the following decades the name became widely used. As for Vespucci, he died in 1512, well before the Europeans understood what they had found. That was the year before Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and discovered that a sea lay beyond, which he called the South Sea, and a decade before Ferdinand Magellan found his strait leading to that same sea, which he named Pacifico.

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Map of Enrique of Malacca's circumnavigation
Map of Enrique of Malacca's circumnavigation: Malacca, Lisbon, Seville,
Rio de Janeiro, Puerto San Julián, Guam, Limasawa, Cebu.[1]

On March 28, 1521, Enrique of Malacca became the first person to complete a linguistic circumnavigation of the globe—he traveled so far in one direction that he reached a point where his own language was spoken. Enrique’s journey began a decade earlier following the sack of Malacca, when he was taken as a slave by Ferdinand Magellan. A teenager, he accompanied Magellan back to Portugal, then to Spain, and finally on the Armada de Molucca to locate a westward route to the Spice Islands. More about Enrique of Malacca.

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