Behaim, Or Behem, Martin, a German navigator and geographer, born in Nuremberg about 1459, died in Lisbon, July 29, 1506. He went in 1477 to Flanders, where he engaged in manufacturing and selling cloth at Mechlin and at Antwerp. The active commerce between Flanders and Portugal, and the interest which he took in the great maritime undertakings of the Portuguese, induced him in 1480 to visit Lisbon, where he was well received at the court of John II., and became a pupil of the learned Johann Miiller, celebrated under the name of Regiomontanus. Here he was associated with Columbus, whose views of a western passage to India he is said by Herrera to have supported. In 1483 he was appointed a member of the commission for calculating an astrolabe and tables of declension; and in reward for his services he was made a knight of the order of Christ. In the following year he was cosmographer in the expedition of D:ogo Cam, who sailed along the W. coast of Africa as far S. as the mouth of the Congo. In 1486 he sailed to Fayal, one of the Azores, where he established a Flemish colony, and married the daughter of its governor.
Here he remained till 1490, when he returned to Nuremberg, where he constructed a terrestrial globe, still preserved there, on which historical notices were written, and which is a valuable memorial of the discoveries and geographical knowledge of his time. Behaim subsequently returned to Fayal, and was for a time employed in diplomacy by the Portuguese government. It has been maintained by some writers that he visited America before Columbus; and an island which he places upon his globe far to the west of the Azores has been thought to be evidence of this. But the existence of an island somewhere in the western waters was one of the current beliefs of the time, and it is probable that Behaim had no positive evidence in assigning it a locality.