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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

the explorer who gave America its present name !!

Life in Internet World is fast and perhaps simple ! – we tend to search for everything and even for local trips depend heavily on Google maps !  .. .. how would people have travelled in earlier days –    – a learned person from Triplicane – studied in Tulene University, Louisiana, New Orleans State in the year 1958 (probably only handful of Indians would have achieved this fame during that time);  travelled widely visiting - England, Germany, France  besides USA.  For the modern day youth the many a parents, USA is a dream destination !


There have been famous explorers, who dared to travel across the Ocean to newer places – and this enigmatic man has an indelible impression in early American history.  The debate has become known among historians as the "Vespucci question". How many voyages did he make? What was his role on the voyages and what did he learn? The evidence relies almost entirely on a handful of letters attributed to him. Many historians have analysed these documents and have arrived at contradictory conclusions.

The United States of America [USA]  consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territories, 326 Indian reservations, and nine minor outlying islands.  At nearly 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million square kilometers), it is the world's third- or fourth-largest country by geographic area.  USA  shares land borders with Canada, Mexico -    maritime borders with the Bahamas, Cuba, Russia, among others.

The first known use of the name "America" dates back to 1507, when it appeared on a world map produced by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in the French city of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges. On his map, the name is shown in large letters on what would now be considered South America, in honor of Amerigo Vespucci.  The naming of the Americas, or America, occurred shortly after Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the Americas in 1492. It is generally accepted that the name derives from Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer, who explored the new continents in the following years.

Amerigo Vespucci [1451 – 1512]  was an Italian merchant, explorer, and navigator from the Republic of Florence. Between 1497 and 1504, Vespucci participated in at least two voyages of the Age of Discovery, first on behalf of Spain and then for Portugal.  In 1503 and 1505, two booklets were published under his name, containing colourful descriptions of these explorations and other alleged voyages. Both publications were extremely popular and widely read across much of Europe. Vespucci claimed to have understood, back in 1501 during his Portuguese expedition, that Brazil was part of a continent new to Europeans, which he called the New World. The claim inspired cartographer Martin Waldseemüller to recognize Vespucci's accomplishments in 1507 by applying the Latinized form "America" for the first time to a map showing the New World. Other cartographers followed suit, and by 1532 the name America was permanently affixed to the newly discovered continents.  It is unknown whether Vespucci was ever aware of these honours.

Amerigo Vespucci was the third son of Nastagio Vespucci, a Florentine notary for the Money-Changers Guild, and Lisa di Giovanni Mini. Amerigo's two older brothers, Antonio and Girolamo, were sent to the University of Pisa for their education; Antonio followed his father to become a notary.  Amerigo worked for a time with his father and continued his studies in science. Sometime after he settled in Seville, Vespucci married a Spanish woman, Maria Cerezo. The evidence for Vespucci's voyages of exploration consists almost entirely of a handful of letters written by him or attributed to him. Starting in the late 1490s Vespucci participated in two voyages to the New World that are relatively well-documented in the historical record.

A letter, addressed to Florentine official Piero Soderini, dated 1504 and published the following year, purports to be an account by Vespucci of a voyage to the New World, departing from Spain on 10 May 1497, and returning on 15 October 1498.  Certain earlier historians, including contemporary Bartolomé de las Casas, suspected that Vespucci incorporated observations from a later voyage into a fictitious account of this supposed first one, so as to gain primacy over Columbus and position himself as the first European explorer to encounter the mainland.   In 1499, Vespucci joined an expedition licensed by Spain and led by Alonso de Ojeda as fleet commander and Juan de la Cosa as chief navigator.  The vessels left Spain on 18 May 1499 and stopped first in the Canary Islands before reaching South America somewhere near present-day Surinam or French Guiana.

In 1501, Manuel I of Portugal commissioned an expedition to investigate a landmass far to the west in the Atlantic Ocean encountered unexpectedly by a wayward Pedro Álvares Cabral on his voyage around Africa to India. That land would eventually become present-day Brazil. The king wanted to know the extent of this new discovery and determine where it lay in relation to the line established by the Treaty of Tordesillas.  From 1505 until his death in 1512, Vespucci remained in service to the Spanish crown. He continued his work as a chandler, supplying ships bound for the Indies. He was also hired to captain a ship as part of a fleet bound for the "spice islands" but the planned voyage never took place. Vespucci wrote his will in April 1511. He left most of his modest estate, including five household slaves, to his wife. Upon his death, Vespucci's wife was awarded an annual pension of 10,000 maravedis to be deducted from the salary of the successor chief pilot.  

Knowledge of Vespucci's voyages relies almost entirely on a handful of letters written by him. Two of these letters were published during his lifetime and received widespread attention throughout Europe.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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