Amerigo Vespucci was an explorer who like Christopher Columbus and John Cabot had sailed westward from Europe to find Asia or more specifically India but ended up in Americas or what was then known as the New World. Interestingly, he identified the landmasses as continents and he inferred that the New World was not Asia or India but indeed a new place that was till then unknown to Europeans. While Vespucci can be regarded as less significant than Columbus or Cabot but his inference certainly had a rippling effect and eventually he got two continents in the world named after him.
Amerigo Vespucci was born in Florence, Italy. He was educated and had been interested in maps and books since childhood. But he was not a mapmaker and navigator nor an explorer like Columbus or Cabot. He worked as a banker for the Medicis who ruled Italy for three centuries and later supervised the ship outfitting business that was based in Seville, Spain. During his stint here, he came across famed explorers. He got to meet Christopher Columbus who shared his experience of having visited the New World. That incited him to set sail.
Vespucci Recognized the New World as Two Separate Continents
Not only did Vespucci figure out that the New World was not Asia but he also understood that the landmasses were not contiguous. He understood that there was a distinct north and south of the landmasses and that they were diverse. He sailed to the tip of present day South America and returned to Portugal. He sailed on Portuguese and Spanish voyages, earning money and accolades for his explorations. He didn’t just map the continents but also explored the cultures and lifestyles of the tribes. He did explore the Amazon thinking it to be Ganges, the mighty river in Asia, but mended his perception.
America Named After Amerigo
First, it was South America that was called America, a feminine variant of Amerigo. Within a short span of time, the maps started becoming popular along with stories written by Vespucci chronicling his explorations. At the time, his letters and maps sold more than that of Columbus. Eventually, a mapmaker used the word America for both North and South, which is when we got the names of two major continents North America and South America.
Vespucci is the only man in history who has not one but two continents named after him.