The famous Italian after whom America probably got its name – Amerigo Vespucci – was born on this day in Florence during the blossoming of Renaissance. He was employed at the Medici family, the world’s most powerful bankers of that era.
They sent him to work in Spain, just as Christopher Columbus discovered a new continent which he thought was India. Vespucci was in Spain working in trade, which experienced a rise after Columbus’ discoveries. For example, he supplied at least one of Columbus’ journeys.
At the invitation of King Manuel of Portugal, Vespucci himself began to travel as an observer. On their first trip, their ship discovered that the coast of South America extends much further south than could be expected for India.
His letters describing these facts became known in Europe, so the German cartographer Waldseemüler in 1507 made a map on which he named the new continent America after the Latinized form of Amerigo’s name. It was the first chart in history on which the name America was inscribed.
It is interesting that Christopher Columbus died only a year before the printing of this first map, believing that he discovered a western route to India. Had he lived a few more years he would have realized that it was a new continent.