Leonardo da Vinci: An Ingenious Spirit in the Wrong Century

Universal genius of the Renaissance: Leonardo da Vinci was far ahead of his time when he grasped the principles of optics, earth science, hydrodynamics, and astronomy.

More than just a gifted painter, Leonardo da Vinci was also a brilliant scientist, architect, engineer, astronomer, inventor, and general genius. In contrast to his well-known artistic creations like the Mona Lisa or the Last Supper, very little of his scientific discoveries—aside from his notes—have been preserved for future generations. He designed cars and aircraft. The trouble was, he started realizing these visions much too early. The majority of Leonardo’s innovations and unfinished paintings remained in his notebooks. This meant that the all-knowing genius also learned the art of defeat.


Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest polymaths in human history, died on May 2, 1519, or 500 years ago. In addition to producing one-of-a-kind works of art, he was also a scientific pioneer. He conceptualized ideal cityscapes, flying machines, “infinity machines,” a technique for estimating the distance between the stars, and human anatomy. Many of his accomplishments continue to this day to be both remarkable and distinctive.

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Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci drawn by his pupil Francesco Menzi.

Nonetheless, his output reflects the labor of a brilliant mind that is actively seeking new competitors in the present day. The Renaissance man par excellence, Leonardo da Vinci, came up with utopian ideas, some of which are puzzling even now. Is it possible for one man to be so far ahead of his time? It’s hard to see how he could have anticipated things that wouldn’t be realized for millennia. The concept of using rotors to create positive buoyancy was first proposed 500 years after the invention of the first diving ships.

In his own words, Leonardo’s art served as a means to an end—the pursuit of knowledge. “If you despise painting, which is only an imitator of all the revealed works of nature,” da Vinci said, “you will certainly also despise an exact exploration that considers all the textures of forms with philosophical and subtle speculation.” Da Vinci’s efforts elevated science above art.  The resultant universe that Leonardo imagined is still full of surprises.

Learning the ropes at the feet of the Renaissance

One young man’s life in Tuscany

There are a few farmhouses built from pale fieldstone, perched on a hill overlooking pine forests, olive orchards, and cypress forests, and surrounded by undulating fields. Tiny Anchiano in northern Tuscany still looks like this today. Leonardo da Vinci, the greatest genius of his time, was born in this Italian town on April 15, 1452, at about 3 a.m.

Da Vinci was born into the Renaissance, a period of change and regeneration. This period, when thinkers and artists recalled the ideals of Greek and Roman antiquity, is seen by many historians as marking the end of the “dark” Middle Ages. In libraries, centuries-old information was uncovered, igniting a fresh desire to learn. Da Vinci would eventually be hailed as one of the greatest minds of all time.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s family

The birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci in Anchiano
The home in Anchiano where Leonardo da Vinci was born. Credit: Roland Arhelger

Caterina, the hostel maid, and Ser Piero da Vinci, a prominent Florentine notary, were his parents. There was no concern about Leonardo’s chaotic family situation at the time of his birth. Although Ser Piero always considered Leonardo to be his son, he originally placed him in the care of a peasant family. When he was five years old, he moved in with his new wife, Albiera, whom he had married six months after Leonardo’s birth.

The father’s family lived in Vinci. In time, Leonardo would come to call Milan “home,” even adopting the city’s moniker and calling himself “Leonardo the Florentine.” Over the course of a few years of sporadic attendance, Da Vinci acquires the literacy skills necessary to read and write in this setting. He doesn’t fully grasp the four fundamental arithmetic operations until late in his life. Leonardo, on the other hand, was inquisitive. He freely roams the countryside with his uncle Francesco or on his own, where he learns about the local flora and fauna and investigates rivers, caverns, and other hidden spots.

Having trained with Master Verrocchio

Leonardo is not able to attend university due to his poor social rank. However, Ser Piero puts his son through an apprenticeship with the Florentine maestro Andrea del Verrocchio after seeing his prodigious creative ability. Not a very original thinker, but a skilled artisan nonetheless, Verrocchio worked as a jeweler, painter, sculptor, musician, and woodcarver. And he oversees the most varied of Florence’s numerous workshops. Here in the middle of Italy, Leonardo started his artistic studies at the age of 14.

He developed a wide range of artistic abilities that reflected his restless, inquisitive temperament in keeping with the ethos of the emerging Renaissance, which looked back to the traditions of antiquity and recognized the creative human being as the source of knowledge. He paints, sketches, sculpts, casts, and works in bronze; he tailors clothes and is engaged in the planning of magnificent feasts for the Tuscan courts. After seeing the emotional depth of Leonardo’s art, Verrocchio realized how limited his own abilities were. When Leonardo painted him an angel for his picture “The Baptism of Christ” and the youngster thereby overwhelmed his teacher’s work, Verrocchio laid down his brush forever—at least that is what the folklore maintains.

Leonardo’s career as a painter took off with the completion of the “Mona Lisa” in 1503-05. This is one of his few completed works of art.

Leonardo developed his extraordinary attention to detail in his creative endeavors, particularly in painting, which is visible in almost all of his works of art. The “Mona Lisa,” his most well-known piece, is the greatest illustration: Not only is the woman’s facial expression captured with revolutionary precision, but so is the whole composition. There are countless little elements in the backdrop of the painting that are almost lost in Leonardo’s hazy “sfumato” technique.

Self-sufficiency dawns on Leonardo

At age 20, Leonardo gets accepted into Florence’s painters’ guild, the St. Luke’s Guild. He has graduated to master status and may now open his own shop and manage the account alone. After moving to Florence, Leonardo quickly became acquainted with fellow painters Sandro Botticelli and Pietro Perugino and networked with other creatives in the area. He struck out on his own in 1476 and established a studio, but he was met with little patronage. Because he is uninterested in politics, the Medici family ignores him. He chooses to seek out a new patron after being falsely accused of homosexuality and threatened with a restriction on labor and public ostracism.

He writes a “letter of application” in which he emphasizes his expertise in the production of military hardware to Ludovico Sforza, afterward Duke of Milan. He was an expert ship defender and attacker and could construct invincible chariots, bombards, mortars, and missiles. While he briefly discusses his other abilities, like painting and sculpting, Leonardo is certain that his inventions would fulfill all military requirements. Leonardo then relocated from Florence to Milan in about 1482.

Art becomes science

Insightful paintings

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Research on water in 1513. Credit: Royal Library, Windsor

It was during his 20 years in Milan that Leonardo created his greatest body of work. He succeeds in getting a footing at the court of the Milanese royal family, the Sforza. Duke Ludovico Sforza, also known as “il Moro,” the Dark One, gave Leonardo the chance to explore his numerous passions outside of art by appointing him to the positions of castle builder and military expert, and subsequently, master of ceremonies. He educates himself in the natural and built worlds by learning about things like geometry, statics, hydraulics, geology, optics, anatomy, zoology, botany, cartography, shipbuilding, and architecture.

In Milan, the city of Lombardy, Leonardo started recording his ideas in notebooks, always paying close attention to the visual presentation of his work as he wrote in mirror writing with his left hand. As his life came to a close, the so-called codices grew to include almost 13,000 pages and the breadth of knowledge found in a dictionary. Only roughly 7,000 pages from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks have been preserved throughout the centuries, yet they are often regarded as his most significant contribution.

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Sketch for a water wheel, 1480-82.

When it comes to technology, Leonardo’s ideas from the codices are centuries ahead of their time. He has designed everything from urban layouts to hydraulic pumps to cars to machine guns to cranes to wheels to diving bells to flying devices. He also keeps personal notes and records his ideas on nature’s energies. The water cycle, continental drift, and human reproduction are just a few of the topics he covers. There are shopping lists, book recommendations, and philosophical conversations about the nature of science interspersed among anatomical drawings, maps, and illustrations of fossils or plants. Guidelines for perspective drawing, developments in foundry procedures, calculations, dates, directions for hydraulic tests, and techniques for gauging air pressure, gravity, and water flow sit next to pictures of fluid dynamics and traction.

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Equine research in 1490. Credit: Royal Library, Windsor.

He sees creation as a natural progression of his creative process. Painting is a means to an end for him in his quest for comprehension. The two fields are inextricably linked in his mind. In a passage like this one, for instance, he learns about visual perception: In fact, he is so preoccupied with his “most critical instruments” that he is learning everything he can about eye anatomy. From there, he delves into how vision works, continues to debate the origins of light, and finally reaches the stars, which serve as a giant mirror. Then he has to investigate water, so he looks into how water moves and ends up drawing parallels between the waves on a lake, sound, and the sun’s beams. His darkroom experiments with light and shadow eventually brought him full circle to his painting issues.

Leonardo is the kind of person who can observe, sketch, and innovate. He thinks of himself as an analytical and critical reflection, capable of not only duplicating but enhancing the original. So, Leonardo sets the groundwork for contemporary observable and abstract scientific inquiry with his skillfully documented ideas.

A matter of perspective

Mixed reactions to the “Last Supper”

The number of paintings ascribed to da Vinci during his lifetime is around 30. However, it is his paintings, especially the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper,” that cement his place in art history and make him one of the most well-known painters in the world.

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“The Last Supper,” 1495-98. Credit: W. Commons.

However, Leonardo’s analytical nature is evident even in his works of art. He makes decisions on the painting’s composition, color palette, and format while also taking into account the lighting and placement of his figures and any shadow effects. Early sketches for what is often regarded as Leonardo’s magnum opus, “The Last Supper,” may be discovered in the same mathematical treatises that detail how to build an octagon out of a circle.

Importance task for the monastery

The painting known as “The Last Supper” was commissioned by Ludovico Sforza. The Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery in Milan needed it to adorn the refectory, the monks’ eating hall. In 1495, Leonardo started painting a fresco that would eventually measure about nine meters in length and over four meters in height. He envisioned the painting as a spatial extension of the dining room. He imagines that Jesus and his followers eat at a table similar to the one used by monks. He adopts a dramatic viewpoint, which enhances the sense of depth and complements the refectory’s natural lighting.

At last, he directs the cast into place: All lines coming into the picture from the spectator converge at Jesus’ head, which serves as the artwork’s vanishing point. By draping each disciple in a trio, he breaks up the conventional pattern of showing all 12 apostles on a single image plane. Judas’s defensive stance as he fumbled with the bag containing the thirty pieces of silver was all the evidence he needed to cast him in a negative light, putting him in the shade of Jesus’s preferred apostle, John.

Irregular genius

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Jesus with faded colors and peeling plaster. Credit: Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

A feature of the universal talent that has previously tested the patience of his patrons is once again on display in the “Last Supper,” which is expected to lead to a revolution in visual composition. Leonardo can’t be counted on and moves at a snail’s pace.

Sforza, who commissioned the piece, has also received complaints from the monks who live there. For nearly a year, the monks had been waiting for the artist to finish their masterpiece, and all that was left was Judas’s head. When questioned by the duke, Leonardo said that he spent at least two hours every day working on the project. Due to their skepticism, the monks return to the duke. It is only now that da Vinci is able to set the record straight. As the story goes, da Vinci spent almost a year frequenting a seedy doss house and rubbing elbows with the lowlife there, all for the sake of finding the perfect wicked visage to match Judas.

Leonardo places a high value on physiognomic research, but his dedication to the field is exceptional for the period. He looks for facial and knuckle models, classifies noses into 10 different kinds from the side and twelve from the front, and keeps an eye out for body language and expressions of emotion.

His inconsistency is a problem, as is the time he spends sketching and then painting his ideas. Leonardo was often sidetracked by anything that didn’t need his whole attention. His contemporaries were critical of his lack of interest in painting. Instead of meeting deadlines, Leonardo often experimented with unusual methods, such as expanding sheep intestines into rooms using bellows, giving tamed lizards wings created from the skin of other insects, creating lifelike wax dolls, or studying the many types of grapes in his vineyard.

At the perfect moment

To destroy “The Last Supper,” all it takes is one experiment. Leonardo’s meticulousness and high standards for perfection are incompatible with the quick fresco method. Painting “al fresco” involves working directly on wet plaster. A fast painter with good decision-making skills is essential for this. For the sake of saving time reworking his mistakes, Leonardo attempts tempera on plaster and comes up with a new method. However, this has terrible consequences. Paint begins to peel and fall off in a continuous shower of flakes after just a few years. Until it undergoes comprehensive repair, Leonardo’s “Last Supper” will remain a “maintenance case” for the foreseeable future.

Da Vinci’s anatomical studies

Neither the study of pubic figures nor the finger exercises for portraits satisfied Leonardo’s insatiable curiosity about the human form. For him, studying models was essential even in the late 15th century so that his depictions of people would be anatomically accurate and convey the right emotions. On the other hand, he went above and above when he was in his late 50s and back in Milan at the French’s request. When it comes to human subjects, he is the first artist to ever do such an analysis. He dissects muscles and bones with the precision of a sculptor and the sight of a painter.

Studies in open humans

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Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical studies of the shoulder. Credit: Royal Library, Windsor.

In 1510, despite a papal prohibition, Leonardo dissected over 35 human cadavers by himself. At first, he was just curious about the body’s structure and mechanical processes, but as he dove further into his research, he grew more intrigued by physiological and medical concerns.

The small quantity of recently deceased corpses and their quick deterioration make the task more challenging. However, Leonardo is able to examine the bodies of people of all ages, and he quickly discovers significant disparities between them. He dissects a dead man in Milan’s Santa Maria Novella Hospital in search of the elderly man’s cause of death. A “parchment-like, shrunken, and deformed artery” is the first example of arteriosclerosis to be described in medical literature, according to his findings.

After some time, Leonardo develops a genuine fascination with the inner workings of the human body, particularly the nervous system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, respiratory system, and musculoskeletal system. The interdependencies of the body’s parts are of particular interest to him. By writing a dissertation titled “On the formation of the human body,” he hopes to shed light on “the beginning of their being” for his fellow humans.

Leonardo usually carries a pen and pencil for just such an occasion. He dismantles the bodies carefully, protecting any vulnerable areas, and fills them with liquefied wax. He produced several drawings as a record of his study, attempted plastic portrayal from different vantage points, and experimented with different lighting conditions.

At odds with the antiquity

Da Vinci’s study of a fetus. Royal Library, Windsor.

It’s not always easy for Leonardo to put aside his conventional wisdom and put his whole faith in what he sees. While there is much that eludes him, he does his best to square his findings with the presumptions of antiquity and provide proof of their veracity, even if he cannot explain it. Da Vinci’s inaccurate depictions of the male and female reproductive systems include his belief that the penis is related to the testicles, lungs, and brain. Although sperm is essential for reproduction, a spiritual substance is also required; this material travels down the spinal cord to the penis.

However, sometimes Leonardo is correct. Though he never dissected a pregnant woman, Leonardo da Vinci is widely regarded as having created the first depiction of a human fetus in gestation. According to legend, he learned all he knows about embryos from a pregnant cow.

But in the end, he also manages to debunk some of the traditional beliefs. Vitruvius, a Roman architect, famously studied proportions and established the ideal body’s dimensions. Leonardo takes his own measurements to accurately record the stature of young men and to address flaws in the antique model, such as the proportionally huge size of the feet.

Medically insignificant but artistically valuable

The human proportions according to Vitruvius
Vitruvian Man.

As far as we know, Leonardo’s anatomical book never saw the light of day. What he really wanted to do was explain what a soul is. In contrast, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, and the vocal apparatus, the last of his research areas made him give up resignedly.

Awed by the intricacy of the universe, he had yet to solve the riddle of existence or made sense of the discoveries that he had made. According to the medical community, his findings were useless. More than 200 pages of drawings of scientific exactness and flexibility, previously unknown, are all that remain of his research on the man. His themes were used as a kind of illustration for millennia before they were refined to become the gold standard of anatomical depiction.

Cars, bicycles and perpetual motion

“Mechanics is the paradise of the mathematical sciences”

Leonardo was interested in the transfer of electricity his whole life. Specifically, he is thinking about how force can be multiplied and how back-and-forth motion may be converted into rotation. Over the years, he came up with a great many innovations thanks to his fascination with weight, velocity, and leverage. As an engineer, Leonardo cared more about the usefulness of his inventions and how they might improve the lives of artisans than anything else.

In search of laws

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Da Vinci’s design for a car, a self-propelled cart.

He investigates the possibility of universal physical rules and lays the groundwork for the parallelogram of forces, which won’t be fully defined until the 16th century. His findings included the relationship between pressure and surface structure and the principles of leverage. Also, he creates a lot of fundamental mechanical components. Before developing the components for machines to handle complicated mechanical issues, he sketches screws, springs, pulleys, winches, and gears. Ball bearings, for example, were not devised for another 500 years; pulley connections, which resemble modern clutches, were also included in his buildings; as were intricate link chains, which he did not yet need.

Almost there for the steam engine

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Today’s replica of the cart.

According to today’s specialists, Leonardo was even on the edge of finding steam power at the time, but the absence of energy sources was his largest obstacle in executing his innovations. With his theories, he foresaw industrial mass production by conserving labor and striving for enormous quantities.

Inventions by him include rolling mills, which use high-pressure cylinders to create metal sheets and foil. Via massive flywheels, he generates large compressive and tensile forces and then transmits that power using gears. Machines such as drills and cranes, as well as cable winches, the screw machine, and automated printing presses, were all his inventions. He anticipated making 60,000 ducats a year from a machine for sharpening needles using leather belts.

Muscle-powered cart

It’s going to be tough to drive his car the way he wants to. The transmission is a set of springs, and it is pushed by the springs. The driver must continuously draw and release the springs to provide smooth driving action. Because the cart can only fit one person, Leonardo requires a fair amount of physical strength and coordination.

Claims that Leonardo invented the bicycle have been debunked. For a long time, the drawing of a rudimentary bicycle from the Codex Atlanticus was regarded as representing Leonardo’s flash of brilliance. Unfortunately, modern research has shown that the sketch was really created in the 20th century and secretly inserted into da Vinci’s notebooks. A sufficient justification for the notion that Leonardo created the bicycle is that it was included in the international printing of a biography of Leonardo in the 1970s without editorial assessment.

The alarm clock he created and used himself is only one example of the strangeness of some of his creations. A water pipe fills a second container, which, in turn, activates a lever that raises Leonardo’s feet through a set of gears.

A fatal blow to the perpetual motion machine

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Da Vinci’s perpetual motion studies.

Similarly, Leonardo considered the concept of perpetual motion, the hope that a machine or device put in motion would continue to run indefinitely and conduct useful labor. Among Leonardo’s many suggestions is the “gravity wheel,” a device in which sheet metal chambers filled with mercury are meant to maintain the wheel’s steady spinning. Another model wheel he creates has balls rolling in grooves to provide asymmetrical torques, causing it to turn.

In the end, however, he uses torque calculations to disprove perpetual motion and suggests that people seeking it instead become goldsmiths. Attempting to maintain constant electricity generation is like trying to create gold in a lab.

Leonardo’s dream of flying

Birds’ fluttering wings

Attempts towards flight are now among Leonardo’s most impressive works. During Leonardo’s day, the idea of flying like a bird was not novel, but no one had come closer to making it a reality via their imagination than the brilliant inventor. Even in this area, Leonardo’s ideas were so far ahead of his time that they wouldn’t catch on for another 400 years.

In spite of his extensive engagement with the problem of air resistance, Leonardo knows nothing about aerostatics or aerodynamics and has no concept of lift in the air.

Birds and bats as role models

The brave scientist decides to model his flying after that of a bird. To achieve this, he breaks down the bird’s flight into its component parts and captures them on film-like strips of hardly changed still photos. When taken as a whole, they create a sense of fluid motion and make the bird come to life on paper.

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Today’s replica of da Vinci’s wings. Credit: Slashvee/Flickr/CC-BY-2.0

He devotes a quarter of a century to the task because, in his mind, mechanical wings are the most essential component of a flying aircraft, and bats provide the best inspiration. He uses ropes and levers to make his mechanical figures move and animate them, like marionettes. Using lever rods, he creates a massive bat wing that a human can flap.

It wasn’t until 1505 that Leonardo began working on the actualization of a flying machine, following his still fairly analytical wing designs. The issue of propulsion, however, is largely overlooked by him. In his sketches, an “engine” is often nothing more than a block of undefined shape, and he seldom if ever addresses how it really works. More specifically, he describes the structure and workings of the flapping wings.

An absence of driving power

To tackle the issue of propelling power, Leonardo proposes having one or more daring pilots push, pull, and crank with their arms and legs while suspended from the ceiling. He creates the first retractable landing gear in aviation history, a structure of stilts a meter high and a stairway by which the flying machine can be reached and carried onboard in order to take off, and a boat that can go to the air by rowing.

He turns to the science of aerodynamics after realizing that human muscular strength is inadequate for propulsion and that his contraptions would never fly. He takes readings of wind speeds and analyzes the aerodynamic qualities of air while he observes birds in flight and leaves falling. To this end, he creates the first barometers and inclinometers, which measure the angle between an inclined surface and the horizontal, and the first aerometers, which measure density.

Parachute and helicopter

The invention of the parachute, a crucial tool in contemporary aviation, did not come until after he had given up on the dream of flying itself. When duplicated, Leonardo’s pyramidal model proved to be effective. In essence, his “rotorcraft,” which consists of a spiral constructed of two discs positioned above each other and cranked by two men, is already comparable to modern helicopters.

A glimpse into Leonardo’s worldview

From above the Tuscan shore in the year 1515 by da Vinci.
From above, the Tuscan shore in the year 1515 by da Vinci.

In the early spring of 1504, Leonardo began drawing and designing the canal that would connect the Mediterranean to Florence through the Arno. By exploring the Arno River plain, he hopes to locate more direct pathways for the river. Although he is always on the go due to the river-building project, he utilizes his walks to reflect on fundamentals in geology, hydrology, and astronomy. After all, he has to learn about the seas before he can rule them.

The Codex Leicester, a booklet bound by Leonardo himself, is the product of his observations, drawings, and research. In all likelihood, he did not compose the 36 pages in chronological order, but instead sequenced them. In this notebook, Leonardo compiled his most seminal insights on the physical universe. Only one notebook of Leonardo’s remains in private hands today. In 1994, Bill Gates paid the approximate equivalent of 23 million euros to acquire it at auction.

Here are just a few examples of the kind of inquiries addressed in the Codex Leicester, along with Leonardo’s insightful responses:

Does the earth have a water cycle?

“The sea is enclosed between the great valleys of the earth, which serves as a vessel for the sea; and the edges of this vessel are the seashores, and if they were to be taken away, the sea would cover the whole earth; but as every part of the prominent earth is higher than the highest level of the sea, the water cannot flow over it, but is content to cover the parts of the earth which form its bottom.”

According to Leonardo, the saltwater must travel down some kind of subterranean water vein to finally reach the mountainous regions. It then makes its way back to the ocean.

Why doesn’t the water cover the whole earth?

“The sea is enclosed between the great valleys of the earth, which serves as a vessel for the sea; and the edges of this vessel are the seashores, and if they were to be taken away, the sea would cover the whole earth; but as every part of the prominent earth is higher than the highest level of the sea, the water cannot flow over it, but is content to cover the parts of the earth which form its bottom.”

How do different stone shapes come about?

“When a river comes out of the mountains, it carries huge stones in its bed in great numbers. And as it continues to flow, it carries smaller stones with the corners that have already been ground off, that is, it makes the larger stones smaller. And as it flows on, it has large pebbles, and then small ones, then coarse sand, and then finer; then coarse mud, and then finer, and so on. By the time he gets to the sea, his water is clouded with sand and mud: he dumps the sand on the seashore, and then the mud follows. It does not lie on the seashore, but because of its lightness it returns with the wave, and when there is no wind it sinks and remains on the seabed.”

Did rivers carved through the mountains?

The Chiana Valley and Tuscany in 1502 a map.
The Chiana Valley and Tuscany in 1502 by da Vinci.

“.. that they carried away the high plains enclosed by the mountains with their wandering course, and that the mountains were sawed through, can be seen from the layers of rocks, which are found on either side at the incisions made by the named river courses correspond to each other.”

How were the Strait of Gibraltar and the Sinai Mountains formed?

“For a long time, the waters of the Mediterranean spilled into the Red Sea and consumed the flanks of the Sinai Mountains. This was due to the mighty, torrential waters of all the rivers that flowed into the Mediterranean in great numbers, and also by the receding sea. And after to the west, three thousand miles from that place, the Calpe mountain was cut and separated from the Abile mountain, then the waters of the Mediterranean began to flow into the western ocean. And because the water was getting shallower and shallower, the highest points then protruded from the Red Sea because the waters had given up their course there.”

How do the Atlantic and Mediterranean Oceans experience high and low tides?

“Ebb and flow are not caused by the moon. This alternation of the sea increasing and decreasing every six hours can be caused by the stagnation of the waters that flow into this sea from the numerous rivers that flow into the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean Sea, in turn, passes the water masses on to the ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar. As this ocean expands, it swells and stagnates in the many bays. And since this weight exceeds the force of the approaching water masses, the water again gains momentum in the opposite direction of its approach and mainly pushes against the Strait of Gibraltar, where this water is dammed for some time and also all the water that they have during this time remains gets anew from the already mentioned rivers.”

Why is the sky blue?

“I say the blue the air shows is not its own colour, but comes from the warm moisture evaporating in tiny, imperceptible particles; these are struck by the rays of the sun, and then they become bright under the boundless darkness of the region of fire, which covers the air from without like a lid.”

Why does the moon shine?

“And if you thought the moon had a light of its own, you would be mistaken; and the light you see in the midst of his circle when he returns is because he sees our earth receiving the sunlight and becoming the full moon.”

How can the moon reflect light?

“Here it is shown that the moon, which has no light of its own, could neither receive nor reflect back to us the light it receives from the sun unless it had a dense, shiny surface, such as the surfaces of mirrors and liquids .”

In other ways, Leonardo is obviously incorrect. However, without a telescope, sediment trap, or other measurement gear, it is amazing how frequently he gets so close to reality. His intellect, which can come to such conclusions, is once again his greatest asset.

The half-done genius

As a representative figure of the intellectual ferment of the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci exemplified the Quattrocento. Despite facing many challenges and making many mistakes in his early adulthood, he did it with the enthusiasm of a young man. However, as he gets older, he will likely come to realize that he, too, is frequently wasting his time trying to uncover the world’s hidden mysteries and turn them into something of practical benefit to humanity.

Despite spending 20 years at the Sforza Court in Milan, Leonardo never again felt at home. Around 1500, he made his way out of town and continued traveling. He becomes a combat engineer for Cesare Borgia’s army. He spends some time in Florence, but eventually comes back to Milan to work for the French as their royal painter and engineer. His time with Pope Leo X in Rome lasts for three years. The French King Francis I picks him up after he is abandoned by both men. The royal property of Cloux, not far from the King’s seat in Amboise, is where Leonardo settles in France after being appointed as the King’s architect.

Here, Leonardo spends his twilight years. He has given up painting but is still working on important issues. His final goal was to open up navigation on the Loire River and its tributaries. Leonardo da Vinci had a stroke on May 2, 1519, and passed on the next day. His ideas never materialized.

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This is the second version. Leonardo painted the first between 1483 and 1486. ​​Today it hangs in the Louvre in Paris.

Like many of Leonardo’s beliefs, trying to understand him is probably bound to fail. An outsider’s impression of this man and his utopias is unsettling. Knowledge from the future, as if gathered by a time traveler, frequently overwhelmed his fellow humans. However, it’s impossible not to shake your head in awe at the breadth and depth of his discoveries, inventions, and foolish mistakes.

The barometer, gliders, machine guns, and mechanical alarm clocks were all creations of his. It’s unclear, though, how many of his ideas were never put into action. What happened to the forts he envisioned and the bridges he drew up? Where are the canals he envisioned, and who operated his spinning mills, drills, mills, and excavators? When did he first attempt flight? Unfortunately, almost none of Leonardo’s ideas ever made it beyond his notebooks or weren’t rediscovered until decades later.

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Da Vinci’s “The Battle of Anghiari” remained unfinished. Credit: Louvre Museum in Paris.

The “Mona Lisa,” “The Last Supper,” “The Madonna of the Rocks,” “St. John the Baptist,” and “Anna Selbdritt” are just a few of the masterpieces that Leonardo left behind. Though he started numerous paintings, he never managed to complete them all. He spent nearly a decade on the unfinished “Leda with the Swan” artwork. The city councils of Florence were his paying customers, and he owed them the “Battle of Anghiari.” Though he received several commissions, Leonardo only completed a handful of paintings. In addition, the bronze he had set aside for a gigantic equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza, whose design had gotten him into the Milanese court, was instead used to make cannons, dooming his longest and most laborious sculpture project.

Art historians and critics argue that Leonardo’s indecisiveness contributed to the global genius’s unfinished works. But in the end, it was the outcome of his desire to make something flawless.

Even though many of his gadgets were feasible and might have been lucrative, Leonardo frequently settled for only hammering out a concept. For him, the pursuit of a problem ended when he discovered its resolution. After he had a rough outline of the evidence and explanation written down, he seldom returned to the same question unless it was necessary to answer a different issue.

In actuality, he was probably much ahead of his time. The majority of his plans were never even fully comprehended. Perhaps, though, it is exactly in this imperfection that the charm of his legacy rests.

A Renaissance intellectual

The name Leonardo da Vinci is almost synonymous with the word genius. He was a genius, but his influence on history was largely limited to the development of the field of art. His scientific research saw interest from a limited number of people at the time, and most of his discoveries never materialized.

Leonardo da Vinci was a typical Renaissance intellectual. It had a great influence on the development of painting, pattern making, and sculpture. In addition to being an innovator in terms of reflecting light and shadow in the picture using new materials and composition, he was also a pioneer in the fields of drawing and perspective of the human anatomy. Leonardo was also a great scientist, engineer, and inventor, which we learned from his diaries that were published a long time after he died.

The Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci.
The Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci, restored, Wikimedia Commons.

Leonardo da Vinci was born in the town of Vinci, in the Tuscany region of Italy. His father was a notary, his mother was a peasant. At the age of 16, he started working as an apprentice in Florence, in the workshop of the painter Andrea del Verrocchio. Here, his abilities were evident. He was considered a master at the age of 20 and worked in Florence and Milan, where he made some religious paintings such as The Adoration of the KingsVirgin of the Rocks, and The Last Supper.

This self-portrait made by Leonardo da Vinci around 1510 had an important place in his life. The artist owed his extraordinary drafting talent to his anatomy studies. He kept detailed notebooks on anatomy during his lifetime, especially while in Milan. These notebooks, containing the artist’s observations, thoughts, drafts, and inventions, were about 13,000 pages. Only 5,000 of these have survived to the present day.

Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk, 1510. Leonardo da vinci.
Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk, 1510

Filled with careful analysis, skepticism, and experience, these notebooks show that Leonardo da Vinci embraced the scientific methods much earlier than Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton. Leonardo was far ahead of his time when he grasped the fields of optics, earth science, hydrodynamics, and astronomy, as well as the principles behind gears, levers, consoles, power, and motion.

Leonardo da Vinci’s designs

leonardo da vinci crane

Leonardo da Vinci’s twin cranes were designed for use in quarries. The stones cut from the rock surface get put in one bucket, and when the crane makes a full turn, the other one is filled and the first bucket gets empty.

leonardo da vinci model design crank arm

This model is made according to Leonardo da Vinci’s grooving machine drawing. When the crank arm is turned, the central dowel starts to rotate. With the rotation of the augers on both sides, the cutting tool moves along the central wooden dowel.

His unfulfilled projects

Between 1485 and 1499, when Leonardo da Vinci worked as an engineer and military architect for the two dukes of Milan, and later he provided similar services for other patrons, such as the famous Cesare Borgia (1475–1507), he found the opportunity to apply some of his theoretical drawings and studies. In reality, Leonardo was promising extraordinary engineering projects while offering his services to these people, and he was only mildly talking about his skills in painting.

Among Leonardo’s notebooks are detailed sketches of many surprising discoveries. Certainly, most of them have never been implemented. These drafts include a giant crossbow, various flight machines, a helicopter, a human-like mechanical robot, a diving device, a bicycle, and an alarm clock powered by water power.

Since the 19th century, there has been a great interest in Leonardo da Vinci both in academic circles and in the public. In the past years, some of his discoveries on paper have finally become reality. Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings were surprisingly applicable, although in some cases, they required minor adaptations.

Only a few of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions had the opportunity to move off paper and be used by people during his lifetime. However, since there was no patent application in Italy at that time, there were few exact records of how and when the inventions could be used in real life. Two known examples are a coil winding machine and a mirror grinding machine. No matter how useful they are, these tools fail to show Leonardo da Vinci’s extraordinary genius and foresight.

leonardo da vinci design

The artist had envisaged that this vehicle would move like a watch, using a spring. There is no place for the driver. Because the vehicle was designed to go on its own. Like most of Leonardo’s important discoveries, this machine was not produced during the artist’s lifetime.

leonardo da vinci tank

This model, made by IBM, was exhibited at the Clos Luce Castle in France, the artist’s last home. The top of the tank, which was moved by turning the arms, was reinforced with perforated metal plates. Thus, the soldiers inside the vehicle could fire outside.

In 1513, Leonardo da Vinci met François IKing of France, who took over Milan. The king asked Leonardo to build a lion-shaped vending machine. Leonardo made a lion that turns his head and even offers a bunch of orchids when properly caressed. The king was so impressed by this invention that he became the protector of Leonardo, and the artist spent the last three years of his life in Amboise, France. Leonardo da Vinci, who is better known for his amazing drawing skills than for his knowledge of science and amazing discoveries, died here in peace

Leonardo da Vinci quotes

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

“Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.”

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”

“Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.”

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.”

“Experience never errs; it is only your judgments that err by promising themselves effects such as are not caused by your experiments.”

“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”

“Although nature commences with reason and ends in experience, it is necessary for us to do the opposite, that is to commence with experience and from this to proceed to investigate the reason.”

“There are four powers: memory and intellect, desire and covetousness. The two first are mental and the others sensual. The three senses sight, hearing, and smell cannot well be prevented; touch and taste not at all.”

“Just as food eaten without appetite is a tedious nourishment, so does study without zeal damage the memory by not assimilating what it absorbs.”

“All knowledge which ends in words will die as quickly as it came to life, with the exception of the written word: which is its mechanical part.”

“The truth of things is the chief nutriment of superior intellects.”

“Life well spent is long.”

“Common sense is that which judges the things given to it by other senses.”

“Knowledge of the past and of the places of the earth is the ornament and food of the mind of man.”

“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.”

“Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are most active.”

By Hrothsige Frithowulf

Hrothsige works at Malevus as a history writer. His areas of historical interest include the ancient world and early Europe, as well as the history of modern culture.