SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
A Florentine, Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) worked in the Seville branch of the Medici bank. Following his interest in maritime exploration, he joined an expedition across the Atlantic in 1497, five years after the first voyage of Columbus. Exploring the coast of what is now Venezuela on his second voyage in 1499, he travelled to the south-east towards the Amazon Delta, establishing that land continued south of the Equator. He realised that this was not Asia, as Columbus believed, but a 'New World'. His account of his voyages was published in many languages and, unlike the diaries of Columbus, was widely read. In his 'Cosmographie Introductio' of 1507 the German cosmographer Martin Waldseemuller suggested that Vespucci's New World be named 'America', the feminine version of the name Amerigo. His accompanying map of the world showed for the first time the name America.
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