Amerigo Vespucci - How America Got Its Name


Amerigo Vespucci was born in 1453 in Florence. He grew up in a family that worked in the weaving business. As a boy he often studied the stars and dreamed of travelling. Amerigo Vespucci was educated by his uncle who was a Dominican friar and probably got him interested in exploration and maps.

In his early life Amerigo Vespucci was a diplomat. He went to the Vatican where he became an aide to Florence's ambassador. It was here that he was introduced to the world of power and politics. Later on he went to France where he became an international trade expert as well as a successful, well-respected diplomat

Through a number of connections with rich families he landed in Seville, Spain and became one of the people who helped finance Christopher Columbus' travels to the New World. Although Columbus' succeeded with his travels the period was a financial disaster for Spain.

At the end of the 15th century Amerigo Vespucci started thinking about going on explorations himself. In a series of four voyages starting in 1497 he traveled to the islands off the South American coast and got to the eastern tip of today's Brazil. He was convinced that the land that he saw belonged to Portugal rather than Spain because of a proclamation by the Pope. Little is known about these voyages because there are no notes or journals.

When he came back to Spain he set up a school for navigators. He wrote a book called the Four Voyages in which he claims he was the true discoverer of the New World. A German mapmaker placed his name on a new map published in 1507.




Related Topics


  • aide = helper
  • ambassador = an important person who represents his or her government in a foreign country
  • century = a period of a hundred years
  • claim = say, declare
  • connection = relationship, link
  • convinced = to be sure, certain
  • disaster = tragedy, catastrophe
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • exploration = travelling around a place so that you can find out something about it
  • finance = to get money for something
  • friar = a member of a religious group of Catholic men who lived in a very poor way and travelled around teaching people about Christianity
  • little = not very much
  • map = a drawing of a country or area that shows rivers, mountains and cities
  • navigator = a person who travels on a ship and plans which way it should go
  • proclamation = announcement, official statement
  • publish = print
  • rather than = not
  • set up = start
  • trade expert = a person who knows a lot about the economy and about buying and selling things
  • true = real
  • voyage = a long journey or trip by ship
  • weave = to make cloth
  • well-respected = admired and liked by many people because of his/her work