Martin Waldseemüller was a German cartographer.
He and Matthias Ringmann are credited with the first recorded usage of the word America, on the 1507 map Universalis Cosmographia in honour of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. He thought it was Amerigo.
Waldseemüller was born in Wolfenweiler near Freiburg im Breisgau (his mother came from Radolfzell) and he studied at the University of Freiburg.
On 25 April 1507, as a member of the Gymnasium Vosagense at Saint Diey (German: Sankt Didel) in the Duchy of Lorraine (today Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France), he produced a globular world map and a large 12-panel world wall map using the information from Columbus and Vespucci’s travels (Universalis Cosmographia), both bearing the first use of the name “America”. The globular and wall maps were accompanied by a book Cosmographiae Introductio, an introduction to cosmography. The book, first printed in the city of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, includes in its second part, a translation to Latin of the Quattuor Americi Vespuccij navigationes (Four Voyages of Americo Vespucci), which is apparently a letter written by Amerigo Vespucci, although some historians consider it to have been a forgery written by its supposed recipient in Italy.
For a long time it was generally believed that Columbus and his crew had been the first Europeans to make landfall in the Americas. In fact they were not the first explorers from Europe to reach the Americas, having been preceded by the Viking expedition led by Leif Erikson in the 11th century; however, Columbus’s voyages were the ones that led to ongoing European contact with the Americas, inaugurating a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization whose effects and consequences persist to the present.
At the time of the Columbus voyages, the Americas were inhabited by the Indigenous Americans, the descendants of Paleo-Indians who crossed Beringia from Asia to North America beginning around 20,000 years ago.Columbus’s voyages led to the widespread knowledge that a continent existed west of Europe and east of Asia. This breakthrough in geographical science led to the exploration and colonization of the New World by Spain and other European sea powers, and is sometimes cited as the start of the modern era.