This is the famous Waldseemüller map, from 1507. It is believed to be the first use of the word “America” as a name for the newly-encountered continents. Waldseemüller was apparently impressed with the stories of Amerigo Vespucci, and bestowed the name on today’s South America in honor of Vespucci.
also named North America “Parias” on this map. Parias came directly from a passage in the Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci: the expedition arrives at a region that was “situated in the torrid zone directly under the parallel which describes the Tropic of Cancer. And this province is called by them [the inhabitants] Parias.” The (possibly) indigenous name did not stick. (I had not heard the word “Parias” before writing this post, and you probably hadn’t either.) Instead, the two continents are called after a random Italian explorer because a random German mapmaker was a fan of the explorer’s book. But that’s history for you.
The Waldseemüller map was intended for a well-educated, elite audience. It was large, made of twelve panels, each 18 by 24.5 inches (46 cm by 62 cm). The entire map could be hung on a wall, or kept folded for when one wanted to reference a particular panel. One thousand copies of the map were printed, and unfortunately, there remains only one survivor in its entirety. It is now housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
Germany developed the V-2 rocket to bomb England during World War II. After the war ended, the US seized unused V-2s and transported them to New Mexico. On October 24, 1946, scientists there place a 35-millimeter motion picture camera on the nose of a V-2, and launched the rocket vertically into space. The camera automatically captured a new image every few seconds while the rocket climbed to an altitude of 65 miles. Conventionally, space begins at 62 miles (100 km) from sea level.
Once it ran out of fuel the V2 fell back to earth. When the wreckage was found, the camera itself had been destroyed, but the film, in a steel cassette, survived unharmed. Range scientists apparently “were jumping up and down like kids” according to enlisted soldier Fred Rulli, 19, who was on the wreckage recovery team. “The scientists just went nuts.”
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