The Man Who Named America

Martin Waldseemuller Remembrance Day

Reading Comprehension for April 25

Have you ever wondered how people knew where they were going when they set out to explore? Many times, they didn't know. Captains of exploring ships often kept detailed logs or journals of their journeys. When they returned home, they often shared this information with cartographers who used it to make new or better maps. One of the best known of these mapmakers was Martin Waldseemuller (Valt-zee-muel-ler).

Waldseemuller was not just a mapmaker, he was a cosmographer. That means that he studied both the sky and the Earth's geography and the relationships between the two.

Born near Freiburg, Germany, in 1470, Waldseemuller's early life is pretty much unknown. As a young man, he attended Freiburg University and studied cosmology. After he left the university, he moved to Basel, Switzerland, where he learned about printing with woodcut illustrations. These techniques would later help him in his work as a mapmaker.

Martin Waldseemuller soon became so good at his work that he was regarded as one of the best cartographers in Europe. This was obvious when he produced his globe of the Earth in 1507. Until this time, the west coast of the Americas was not drawn in.

What's so odd about this? Well, Balboa did not see the Pacific Ocean until six years later, and Magellan didn't explore there until at least 1519, a full twelve years after the map was produced.

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