Amerigo Vespucci (Latin Americus Vespucius) (1454-1512), Italian navigator, for whom the continents of North and South America are named. He was born in Florence. In 1495 he took over the business of a merchant in Seville, Spain, who had furnished supplies to ships voyaging to the West Indies. Vespucci later set out for the New World himself and left accounts and maps of four voyages.
Most scholars agree that Vespucci explored a large section of the northern coast of South America during an expedition led by Spanish soldier Alonso de Ojeda in 1499 and 1500. Most also believe that he might have explored part of that continent's eastern coast on a subsequent voyage. German geographer and cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, who translated Vespucci's narrative in 1507, was the first to use America, an adaptation of the explorer's given name of Amerigo, as a name for the southern continent. The name gradually came into use to refer to the two western continents after it appeared on a world map published by Flemish geographer Gerardus Mercator in 1538.