(from Christopher Columbus: His Life, His Work,
His Remains by John Boyd Thatcher - 1904)
One man is the acknowledged discoverer of an entirely new world, yet by pure chance, it is named after another.
History tells us a German cartographer, Martin Waldseemüller, scribbled America over the country of Brazil on a new map he was working on in 1507. He’d read Vespucci’s account of his discoveries, and decided it was a good way to honor the navigator and discoverer of that area.
According to Waldseemüller, he wrote the word America across Brazil on the new map because, “I see no reason why anyone should justly object to calling this part America, after Amerigo [Vespucci] its discoverer, a man of great ability.”
Over time, the name just sort of stuck.
In 1538, the famed mapmaker Gerardus Mercator extended the name to all of North and South America. From that point on, Amerigo Vespucci’s Novus Mundo, or new world, would bear his name.
Amerigo Vespucci was born March 9th, 1454, in Florence, Italy. As a young man, he worked as a clerk for Lorenzo de’ Medici. In 1492, he was dispatched to Cadiz, Spain, to serve as an agent in that branch. In 1495, Vespucci helped procure supplies for Columbus’s second voyage.
Vespucci switched allegiances in 1499 and began work for the King of Portugal. He participated in several voyages of discovery. Some say, he acted as an observer for the king. Other accounts contend he was a navigator on several of the voyages. Whichever account is true, Vespucci was present on several important voyages of discovery.