1

Christopher Columbus is widely credited with discovering the new world in 1492 as the leader of an expedition which included 3 ships financed by the kingdom of Spain. Columbus was a seasoned sailor, navigator and captain who theorized the existence of a shorter more profitable path to India. He sought out many financial backers over years to support his proposed exploration and finally found such in Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain.

The first European settlements in the "Americas" are associated with Christopher Columbus. The settlement of La Isabela established in 1492 made up of Colubus's crew which remained in the new world after his initial crossing. And the first permanent European settlement in the New World, Santo Domingo established by Christopher Columbus on a subsequent voyage in 1496.

While Columbus was discovering and establishing settlements in the new world(1492) Amerigo Vespucci was working as a financial agent in Florence cleaning up estates of wealthy merchants(1495). After that he worked as a contract provisioner collecting supplies for ships going on long voyages, filling this need for at least one of Christopher Columbus expeditions to the new world, perhaps two.

Wiki: Amerigo Vespucci.
At the invitation of the King of Portugal Vespucci was invited along as an "observer" on several trips to the new World from 1502-1507. He wasn't a captain, didn't navigate the passage, nor was he even a sailor. He was an observer. Amerigo Vespucci subsequently would write accounts of two of his 3 passages as an observer, and would become famous in Europe for these accounts.

A German map maker(Waldseemüller) would write America over the continent of South America in 1507 a continent Vespucci did not discover but had explored and first identified as a new continent and would publish one of the two letters where Vespucci claimed to have identified the new continent. In 1538 the name for South America would be extended to the northern continent as well.

However Questions now exist to whether Vespucci even wrote the letter which identified the new continent.

Wiki: Amerigo Vespucci.
Some have suggested that Vespucci, in the two letters published in his lifetime, was exaggerating his role and constructed deliberate fabrications. However, many scholars now believe that the two letters were not written by him but were fabrications by others based in part on genuine letters by Vespucci. It was the publication and widespread circulation of the letters that might have led Waldseemüller to name the new continent America on his world map of 1507 in Lorraine. Vespucci used a Latinised form of his name, Americus Vespucius, in his Latin writings, which Waldseemüller used as a base for the new name, taking the feminine form America, according to the prevalent view.

Wiki: Americas.
America derives from Americus, the Latin version of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci's first name. America accorded with the feminine names of Asia, Africa, and Europa.

My question: Why was Amerigo Vespucci honored thusly, given he followed at least four earlier explorers to reach the mainland of the continent, including:

Timeline of European colonization of North America.
- Christopher Columbus - 1492 1496, 1498, 1502
- John Cabot - 1497, Newfoundland
- Joao Fernandes Lavrador - 1499, labrador
- Pedro Alvares Cabral - 1500, Brazil

Reached mainland coast.

Given Amerigo Vespucci was merely an invited guest, observer of the patron of these passages. The expedition he accompanied was even informed of the existence of Brazil from the previous Pedro Alvares Cabral expedition which did not have the opportunity to explore due to a tragedy. Today scholars believe he didn't even identify the land as a new continent as had been believed in his time. Is this honor given to Amerigo Vespucci a mistake, an intentional snub of Columbus, or does it have merit?

Sources:.
Timeline of European colonization of North America
Wiki: Amerigo Vespucci
Wiki: Americas
Santo Domingo
Pedro Alvares Cabral

  • 8
    Amerigo Vespucci was the first person to prove that the Americas were not part of Asia, but a new continent. Why isn't this sufficient for getting him naming rights, so to speak? – Semaphore Feb 26 '18 at 21:56
  • 1
    I think this has some substantial value, although very difficult to answer as there is afaik unresolved controversy. Please look into Stefan Zweig "Amerigo" & Wallisch: "Der Mundus Novus" and the Note b. As currently phrased it looks indeed like WP should be enough. (IMO it isn't) – LаngLаngС Feb 26 '18 at 22:04
  • 7
    American Vespucci did not “prove” anything he was credited with theorizing that Brazil was a continent due to his observations. Only there is doubt today whether he even did that much. The naming of the continent was done by an obscure cartographer and just kinda stuck as far as I can tell. It appears to be mostly by chance. – JMS Feb 26 '18 at 23:17
  • 1
    Of course there is an alternate theory that America was named after an official at Bristol named Amerik connected with Cabot's voyages. And I like to joke that America was named by one of Cabot's crew shouting "It's a miracle!" when they sighted land. – MAGolding Feb 27 '18 at 4:29
  • 5
    Possible duplicate of Why aren't the Americas named after Christopher Columbus – Steve Bird Feb 27 '18 at 6:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.