Martin Behaim
Martin Behaim (6 October 6, 1459 – 29 July 1507), (also known as Martinho da Boémia, Martin Bohemus, Martin Behaim von Schwarzbach, or ) was a German
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 mariner, artist, cosmographer, astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

, philosopher, geographer
A geographer is a scholar whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society.Although geographers are historically known as people who make maps, map making is actually the field of study of cartography, a subset of geography...

 and explorer in service to the King of Portugal
John II of Portugal
John II , the Perfect Prince , was the thirteenth king of Portugal and the Algarves...



The Behaim family had immigrated to Nuremberg because of religious persecution around 916. Behaim was born in Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

, according to one source, about 1436; other sources suggest as late as 1459; while others indicate that he was born in Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

 to Martin Behaim and Agnes Schopper, merchants and the oldest of seven sons. Martin Behaim, the father, had many businesses including some in Venice, and later became an elected senator (1461), eventually dying in 1474 (Agnes Schopper died on 8 July 1487). Their son attended the highest schools, receiving a scientific education, obligated to learn the languages of Europe and devote themselves to commercial pursuits and studies, before being sent to under apprenticeship abroad.

With a vocation in commerce, he parted around 1477 for Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, settling in Malines where he joined the business of Jorius van Dorpp, a vendor of clothing. They visited Frankfurt fairs in 1477, where van Dorpp sold his wears to a German merchant from Antwerp, and Behaim was motivated by his mother to return in the fall where he worked with Bartels von Eyb (a friend of the family). Writing to his uncle, Leonhard Behaim (September 18, 1478), he expressed his desire not to return to Malines and wanted to improve his commercial skills. He eventually worked for another merchant, Fritz Heberlein (a native of Nuremberg but established in Antwerp) who allowed him to learn arithmetic and improve his skills. In 1480, trade between Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 and Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 attracted Behaim to Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, and he became involved with the mercantile interests and overseas exploration that was occurring in the capital (from Flanders, Germany and the Hanseatic League
Hanseatic League
The Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe...

). He was attracted to the knowledge of the navigators, cosmographers and explorers, acquiring a scientific reputation, and supposedly meeting with Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

 and Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer. He was born in Sabrosa, in northern Portugal, and served King Charles I of Spain in search of a westward route to the "Spice Islands" ....

 and other celebrities then at the court of King John II of Portugal
John II of Portugal
John II , the Perfect Prince , was the thirteenth king of Portugal and the Algarves...


Between 1471-75, as a pupil (real or supposed) of the astronomer Regiomontanus
Johannes Müller von Königsberg , today best known by his Latin toponym Regiomontanus, was a German mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, translator and instrument maker....

 (Johannes Müller von Königsberg of Königsberg
Königsberg, Bavaria
Königsberg in Bayern is a town in the Haßberge district, in Lower Franconia, Bavaria, Germany. It is situated 7 km northeast of Haßfurt, and 31 km northwest of Bamberg....

 in Franconia
Franconia is a region of Germany comprising the northern parts of the modern state of Bavaria, a small part of southern Thuringia, and a region in northeastern Baden-Württemberg called Tauberfranken...

), who died in 1476, he became linked to cosmography and cartography, resulting in an invitation from King John to a council on navigation
Navigation is the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks...

 in 1483, led by Abraham Zacuto
Abraham Zacuto
Abraham Zacuto was a Sephardi Jewish astronomer, astrologer, mathematician and historian who served as Royal Astronomer in the 15th century to King John II of Portugal. The crater Zagut on the Moon is named after him....

. It is said that he introduced the cross-staff to Portugal (an invention first described by the Spanish Jew Levi ben Gerson in the 14th century), but this is a matter of some controversy. Many navigational instruments had been in use for centuries by Scandinavian, Greek, Roman, Arab, and Chinese navigators, although there were subtle differences between them. He made improvements to the astrolabe
An astrolabe is an elaborate inclinometer, historically used by astronomers, navigators, and astrologers. Its many uses include locating and predicting the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, determining local time given local latitude and longitude, surveying, triangulation, and to...

 by introducing brass instruments in place of cumbrous wooden ones. It also seems likely that he helped to prepare improved navigational tables of the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...


Behaim accompanied Diogo Cão
Diogo Cão
Diogo Cão was a Portuguese explorer and one of the most remarkable navigators of the Age of Discovery, who made two voyages sailing along the west coast of Africa to Namibia in the 1480s.-Early life and family:...

 during his second expedition (1485–86) along the coast of western Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

, reaching Cabo Negro and Cabo Ledo and returning by way of the Azores
The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is located about west from Lisbon and about east from the east coast of North America. The islands, and their economic exclusion zone, form the Autonomous Region of the...

. It is still unclear whether Behaim sailed as far as reported, or whether he only reached the coast of Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

, perhaps as far as the Bight of Benin
Bight of Benin
The Bight of Benin is a bight on the western African coast that extends eastward for about 400 miles from Cape St. Paul to the Nun outlet of the Niger River. To the east it is continued by the Bight of Bonny . The bight is part of the Gulf of Guinea...

. Perhaps these waypoints were only reached by the astronomers José Vizinho and João Afonso de Aveiro in 1484-86. Behaim's later history was less memorable: on his return to Lisbon from exploration in western Africa, he was knighted by King John, who afterwards employed him in various capacities.

Following his marriage to D. Joana de Macedo in 1486, he resided on the Portuguese island of Faial
Faial is a Portuguese word derived from faya, referring to a species of plant/tree, Myrica faya.It may also refer to:=In the archipelago of the Azores*Faial Island, an island in the Central Group of islands...

 in the Azores, where his father-in-law, Josse van Huerter
Josse van Huerter
Josse van Huerter , also known by several transliterations was the first settler, and captain-major of the island of Faial in the Portuguese Azores. After 1482, the island of Pico was also incorporated into his captaincy...

, was Captain-donatário and leader of the Flemish community. In 1490, he returned to Nuremberg to handle the family business and design his famous globe, the Erdapfel. He returned to Faial in 1493 by way of Flanders and Lisbon, and he remained there until 1506. He died on July 29, 1507, while in Lisbon on business.

Before Magellan

During the Age of Exploration, it was common for the crown of Portugal to buy nautical charts from various sources, even if they were not accurate or showed unknown and mythic regions. Consequently, it is likely that during his familiarity with the Crown, that King John II
John II of Portugal
John II , the Perfect Prince , was the thirteenth king of Portugal and the Algarves...

 would have purchased maps and charts from Martin Behaim, which might have depicted mysterious passages in an unknown land. This may account for the confusion caused by the story of Magellan's exploration of the southern route to the Pacific.
Antonio Pigafetta
Antonio Pigafetta
Antonio Pigafetta was an Italian scholar and explorer from the Republic of Venice. He travelled with the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his crew on their voyage to the Indies. During the expedition, he served as Magellan's assistant and kept an accurate journal which later assisted him...

, an Italian writer who accompanied Ferdinand Magellan notes that Magellan would have a partial drawing of the channel, analyzing it even before they had reached land. A second chart, as Pigafetta alleges, would have been memorized by the explorer, in order to avoid others from discovering the passage (particularly if his Spanish crew had mutinied). Although historians usually do not accept Behaim's influence on the discovery of the passage to the Pacific, it is fact that he is cited in the original Pigafetta's diary as the author of the original drawing of the channel. Magellan himself stated that he knew that a southern passage through a sound would lead to the "Southern Sea" (which Balboa had discovered in 1513 through the Isthmus of Panama), since he had seen the sound on a chart authored by Martin Behaim. Pigafetta later wrote:
But Hernando knew that is was the question of a very mysterious strait by which one could sail and which he had seen described on a map in the Treasury of the King of Portugal, the map having been made by an excellent man called Martin de Boemia.

While Martin Behaim may be regarded as a contributor to the discovery of the Straits of Magellan, he might have only made a copy of an original sketch of the strait.

The Erdapfel

During his visit to his native home in Nuremberg, in collaboration with the painter Georg Albrecht Glockenthon, Martin Behaim constructed his familiar terrestrial globe
A globe is a three-dimensional scale model of Earth or other spheroid celestial body such as a planet, star, or moon...

 between 1491 and 1493, one of two globes, which he called the Erdapfel
The Erdapfel produced by Martin Behaim in 1492 is considered to be the oldest surviving terrestrial globe. It is constructed of a laminated linen ball in two halves, reinforced with wood and overlaid with a map painted by Georg Glockendon....

(literally, the earth apple). It conforms to an idea of a globe envisioned in 1475 by Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV , born Francesco della Rovere, was Pope from 1471 to 1484. His accomplishments as Pope included the establishment of the Sistine Chapel; the group of artists that he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpiece of the city's new artistic age,...

, but has the added improvements of meridians and an equatorial line.

It was, until recently, preserved in the German National Museum
Germanisches Nationalmuseum
The Germanisches Nationalmuseum is a museum in Nuremberg, Germany. Founded in 1852, houses a large collection of items relating to German culture and art extending from prehistoric times through to the present day...

, on the same floor as Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer was a German painter, printmaker, engraver, mathematician, and theorist from Nuremberg. His prints established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance ever since...

's gallery (owing to Nuremberg being the heart of the German Renaissance).

The influence of the African Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

, who bequeathed the world latitude and longitude, is apparent, but every attempt is made to incorporate the discoveries of the later Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 (including information from the voyages of Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

, among others). Aside from its fame, the Behaim Globe has numerous geographic errors, even when comparing them to discoveries of the epoch. Western Africa is incorrect, though technology at the time made such calculations difficult; the Cape Verde
Cape Verde
The Republic of Cape Verde is an island country, spanning an archipelago of 10 islands located in the central Atlantic Ocean, 570 kilometres off the coast of Western Africa...

 archipelago lies hundreds of miles out of its proper place; and the Atlantic is filled with mythological islands that were psychologically important to isolated Medieval Christendom Japan is located only 1500 miles off the coast, and was just where Marco Polo mentioned it, placing it temptingly within sailing distance of the Canaries. The Isle of St. Brendan is also located on this globe, but it contains the entire Western Hemisphere in capsule form. There are 16º errors in the location of many of the places, whereas modern maps seldom have more than 1º, because longitude was very difficult to ascertain before the invention of accurate clocks. The antiquity of this globe and the year of its execution, on the eve of the discovery of the Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

, makes it not just the oldest, but the most historically valuable globe. Currently, it has been moved to an undisclosed location, to be studied at high resolution by the Behaim Digital Globe Project, in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

. It corresponds particularly well with Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

's notion of the Earth, and makes the notion of a jump across that little Ocean Sea to the Far East irresistible; he and Behaim drew their information from the same sources. Though less navigationally accurate than the beautiful Catalonian portolani
Portolan chart
Portolan charts are navigational maps based on realistic descriptions of harbours and coasts. They were first made in the 14th century in Italy, Portugal and Spain...

charts of the 14th century, as a scientific work it is of enormous importance; it may be the first terrestrial globe ever built, is tilted to spin at the correct angle, and represents an encyclopedia of the West's known world in the year 1492.

His family rescued the globe from city hall before it went the way of so many out-of-date artifacts.

External links

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