Leonardo Da Vinci had many faces: artist, sculptor, painter, architect, scolar, anatomist, musician but also inventor, we can also call him a philosopher of the nature. How, exactly? Swide recounts his main groundbreaking inventions, centuries before humanity was able to realise them.
Military engineer and architect, Leonardo was able, not only to create the most beautiful art the world has ever seen, but also to imagine and design objects (called “Macchine”) that would be realised only centuries later.
In 1486 he was already working on a way to allow humans to fly, and in 1505 wrote an essay about the mechanic of birdflight. He soon understood that men needed mechanics in order to be able to fly and designed the parachute. Not only: for most of his ideas he created prototypes (many of which you can admire in Milan at Museo della Scienza e della Tecnica). As an amazing forerunner, we have found sketches for tanks, ogival missiles, bicycles, helicopters, diving suits, cars, even new musical instruments that needed to be named, and were, only centuries later.
Study for artificial wings
Study for parachute
He collected his projects in the Atlantic Code, a body of 12 books containing scripts and drawings (more than 1700), now preserved in the Ambrosiana Library in Milan.
Study for bicycle
Study for ogival missiles
He also was the first one, with Andrea Vesalio, to study human anatomy (breaking into mortuaries of Milan, Florence and Rome) including veins, arteries and the mechanics of the eye, and to render it with drawings of unbelievable precision, approaching a topic – until then taboo - in such a modern way that didn’t differ much from the way anatomy was treated in the 1800’s. His method of representing organs through a cross-section of the body is still applied today.
The Vitruvian man
Study of a fetus
He also created the hydraulic system for the Navigli, Milan’s network of canals, and studied hydraulic energy and the optical effects of water’s surface.
There are many legends about Leonardo’s personality and life - which we won’t linger on – but what is certain is that he was one of the most curious people that ever walked the earth, with a witty outlook on life in all its forms and an endless love for research and exploration to which humanity owes the progress and the evolution of the species.
And if you are in Italy, don't forget to visit the exhibit about Leonardo Da Vinci in Cecina (Livorno), “Da Vinci – Con le macchine di Leonardo in 560 anni di genio”, that just opened at the Fondazione Culturale Hermann Geiger (Corso Matteotti, 47) and will be on until May 27th 2012. On display, the riconstructions (accompanied by 3D videos) of Leonardo's most famous inventions, included in the Atlantic Code.
Written by: Elisa della Barba