Although among non-Native Americans Christopher Columbus is traditionally considered the discoverer of America, Columbus was preceded by the various cultures and civilizations of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, as well as the Western world's Vikings at L'Anse aux Meadows. He is regarded more accurately as the person who brought the Americas into the forefront of Western attention. "Columbus's claim to fame isn't that he got there first," explains historian Martin Dugard, "it's that he stayed." The popular idea that he was first person to envision a rounded earth is false. The rounded shape of the earth has already been known since antiquity.
Replicas of Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria sailed from Spain to the Chicago Columbian Exposition
Amerigo Vespucci's travel journals, published 1502-4, convinced Martin Waldseemüller that the discovered place was not India, as Columbus always believed, but a new continent, and in 1507, a year after Columbus's death, Waldseemüller published a world map calling the new continent America from Vespucci's Latinized name "Americus". The preoccupation of European courts with the rise of the Ottoman Turks in the East partly explains their relative lack of interest in Columbus's discoveries in the West at that time.
San Marino €2 coin (2006) commemorating 500th anniversary of Columbus' death
Columbus monument near the state capitol in Denver, Colorado
Historically, the British had downplayed Columbus and emphasized the role of the Venetian John Cabot as a pioneer explorer, but for the emerging United States, Cabot made for a poor national hero. Veneration of Columbus in America dates back to colonial times. The name Columbia for "America" first appeared in a 1738 weekly publication of the debates of the British Parliament. The use of Columbus as a founding figure of New World nations and the use of the word 'Columbia', or simply the name 'Columbus', spread rapidly after the American Revolution. In 1812,...