Yuri Gagarin and Amerigo Vespucci: Two legends that changed the world as we know it today

Yuri Gagarin and Amerigo Vespucci: Two legends that changed the world as we know it today

March 9 marks the birthday anniversary of two legends whose contributions in their respective fields have been groundbreaking.

Amerigo Vespucci and Yuri Gagarin were born on March 9 in Italy and Russia respectively.

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Amerigo Vespucci, born in 1454, was the first to recognize the Americas as distinct continents and not part of Asia. He is most famous for being the person on whose name the American continents were named.

Facts about Amerigo Vespucci-

  • Amerigo Vespucci was the first to recognize the Americas as distinct continents.
  • In 1507, Martin Waldseemuller, a German cartographer, produced a world map using the information from Columbus and Vespucci’s travels. He named the new continent America using the Latinized form of Vespucci’s first name Americus and taking the feminized version America. This was the first use of the name America.
Universalis Cosmographia, Waldseemuller’s 1507 world map which was the first to show the Americas separate from Asia
  • It is believed that he was the first to discover the mouth of the Amazon river.
  • He named a few constellations on a voyage back in 1502, including the Southern Cross, among others.


Yuri Gagarin, born in 1934 in Russia, was the first person to fly in space. His flight, on April 12, 1961, lasted 108 minutes as he circled the Earth for a little more than one orbit in the Soviet Union’s Vostok spacecraft.

Soviet Union’s Vostok spacecraft

Following the flight, Gagarin became a cultural hero in the Soviet Union. Even today, more than six decades after the historic flight, Gagarin is widely celebrated in Russian space museums, with numerous artifacts, busts and statues displayed in his honor.

Facts about Yuri Gagarin

  • Since 12 April 1961, the anniversary of Gagarin’s first flight has been celebrated in Russia as a holiday known as Cosmonautics Day.
  • One of the factors contributing to Gagarin’s selection for the launch of Vostok 1 was the fact he was only 5ft 2in tall, a distinct advantage in the spacecraft’s cramped two-metre wide cockpit.


  • When Gagarin visited Britain, Queen Elizabeth II took a picture with him, contrary to etiquette. She explained her decision by saying that Gagarin was not an ordinary person, but a man from space.
  • The first man to travel to space spent eight days in India in 1961. During those exhausting days, Gagarin met Jawaharlal Nehru, addressed a huge gathering in Mumbai’s Shivaji Park and received a raucous welcome from an adulating public across India.
Yuri Gagarin with Jawahal Lal Nehru
  • Yuri Gagarin was also back-up commander for the ill-fated Soyuz 1 mission, which crashed on 24 April 1967. He died in a training flight the following year at a young age of 34.

Today is Amerigo Vespucci’s 565th birth anniversary while 85th birthday anniversary of Yuri Gagarin.

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