Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Behaim, Martin

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BEHAIM, or BEHEM, Martin, German geographer, b. in Nuremberg about 1459; d. in Lisbon, 29 July, 1506. When a boy he was much interested in astronomy and mathematics. He engaged in the manufacture of cloth in Flanders in 1477, and in 1480 the commercial relations between that country and Portugal, as well as his interest in the maritime discoveries of the Portuguese, led him to visit Lisbon. Here he became a pupil of Johann Müller (Regiomontanus), and a friend of Christopher Columbus, whose views in regard to a western passage to India he supported. He was one of a committee appointed in 1483 to construct an astrolabe and tables of declension, and for his services was made a knight in 1484. He was cosmographer on the expedition of Diego Cam, which sailed along the west coast of Africa to the mouth of the Congo. He established a Flemish colony at Fayal in 1486, married the governor's daughter, and remained there until 1490 when, returning to Nuremberg, he made a large terrestrial globe, on which historical notices were written. This globe is a valuable record of the geographical knowledge of his time. It is made of papier-maché, covered with gypsum, and over this a parchment surface receives the drawing. The Behaim family caused it to be repaired in 1825, and it is now in the city hall at Nuremberg. Behaim placed on his globe an island far to the west of Fayal, and this is thought by some to have been on the Brazilian coast, which would make Behaim, instead of Columbus, the discoverer of America. It is probable, however, that he simply represented the general impression that some such island existed. In 1493 Behaim returned to Portugal, and, being sent on a diplomatic mission to the Low Countries, was captured by English cruisers, and carried to England, but afterward escaped to the continent. See Von Murr's “Diplomatische Geschichte des Hitters M. Behaim” (1778), and Ghillany's “Geschichte des Seefahrers Ritter Martin Behaim” (1853).