Missed anniversary: Naming of Americas

April 29, 2009

Waldseemuellers 1507 map that named the Americas.  Library of Congress image.  Click on the map for access to a very high resolution image.

Waldseemueller's 1507 map that named the America's. Library of Congress image. Click on the map for access to a very high resolution image.

According to the Associated Press, Marin Waldseemueller is the cartographer who decided to name the New World continents after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian navigator who had made a voyage to the Americas and then wrote a book about what he saw.  The book sold well in Europe, but became a runaway when an unscrupulous printer spiced up Vespucci’s story with tales of sex.

Martin Waldseemueller, German cartographer who named the New World after Amerigo Vespucci on his 1507 map -- from a painting by Gaston Save, circa 1900

Martin Waldseemueller, German cartographer who named the New World after Amerigo Vespucci on his 1507 map -- from a painting by Gaston Save, circa 1900

Waldseemueller’s map was published in 1507, on April 25.

The one surviving copy of the map was purchased by the Library of Congress for $10 million, in 2001.

Vespucci’s account described land and peoples that clearly were not from East Asia, to canny and alert readers.  Waldseemueller was widely read, and on the basis of Vespucci’s account and other accounts from China, concluded the lands Columbus discovered were separate from Asia.

Waldseemueller accurately protrayed the width of South America to within 70 miles in some places, and appears to have been the first to predict the presence of a wide ocean between the Americas and Asia — the Pacific not being “discovered” by Europeans until 1513, six years after this map.

Resources:

Big thanks to Jessica Palmer at Bioephemera for those last two resources; her report on the display of the map at the Library of Congress is really, really useful.


Making history class interesting: A lesson plan

September 12, 2007

Getting kids to dive into history can be a chore — but a chore well worth the effort.

Here’s what it might look like, if the kids dive in:

ON the kind of humid summer day that sends visitors to Washington running for cool cover, not even free air-conditioning could lure more than a trickle of tourists into the art museums lining the National Mall.

But 35 miles south at the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Quantico, Va., visitors in a virtual boot camp tested their mettle against drill instructors and their marksmanship on an M-16 laser-rifle range.

Up the Potomac at Mount Vernon, crowds spilled onto a four-acre replica of George Washington’s working farm, while inside the Revolutionary War Theater the rumble of cannons and the cold prick of snow falling overhead lent verisimilitude to the re-enactment of his troops crossing the Delaware River.

And at the International Spy Museum in downtown Washington, visitors with $16 advance tickets snaked out the door as they waited their turn to practice fantasy espionage, complete with assumed identities, pen cameras, shoe phones and the kind of super-spy cars Q might have dreamed up for 007.

Admit it. Learning about history has rarely been so much fun.

You’re not close to Quantico, nor to Washington, D.C.?  How about you get your kids to invent a museum.

The New York Times collaborates with Columbia University’s Bank Street College of Education to produce lesson plans based on stories from the Times, every week day.

You may subscribe to get a lesson plan to your e-mail box every dayOr you can track them down at the Times’ website.

Below the fold, without editing, I list the lesson plan sent out September 10, as an example.  Sounds like a good day in class, to me.

Read the rest of this entry »


%d bloggers like this: