Amerigo Vespucci (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: The first European credited with persuading his contemporaries that what Christopher Columbus had discovered was a “New World,” Vespucci revolutionized geographic thinking when he argued that this region now bearing his name was a continent distinct from Asia.
Amerigo Vespucci was the third son of a Florentine family of five children. His father, Stagio Vespucci, was a modestly prosperous notary and a member of a respected and learned clan that cultivated good relations with Florence’s intellectual and artistic elite. The fortunes of the family improved during Amerigo’s lifetime, and his father would twice occupy positions of fiscal responsibility in the Florentine government.
Unlike his older brothers, who attended the University of Pisa, Amerigo received his education at home under the tutelage of a paternal uncle, Giorgio Antonio, a Dominican friar. The youth became proficient in Latin and developed an interest in mathematics and geography, an interest which he was able to indulge in his tutor’s extensive library. In his uncle’s circle, Amerigo also became acquainted with the theories of Paolo Toscanelli dal Pozzo, a Florentine physician and cosmographer who first suggested the possibility of a westward voyage as an alternative route to the Orient, an idea that Columbus and others eventually borrowed.
The study of geography was considered useful for...
(The entire section is 2413 words.)
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