Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the most prolific creative minds the world has ever witnessed so far.
Belonging to the golden period, the Italian Renaissance and Leonardo Da Vinci are inseparable from one and another.
He was immensely inspirational as an inventor and scientist but also hugely proficient as a sculptor, artist, and an engineer. Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions are not only awe-inspiring but path-breaking too.
Peep into the life of a magnificent genius and the various artistic and the indispensable scientific inventions he created.
In a recently held auction at the Christie’s located in New York, a painting of Jesus Christ regarded to have been done by Leonardo da Vinci was sold for a whopping US$ 450m.
This painting is referred to as Saviour of the World or Salvator Mundi.
As per reports, this is the highest price paid for any artwork. It is the only artwork thought to have been in private hands.
Leonardo Da Vinci - Birth (1452-1519) And Training
Leonardo Da Vinci was born in Tuscany (present), Anchiano(medieval), near Vinci town, the place which later became synonymous with his name.
“II Florentine” or merely Leonardo as he was well known in his time since he closely lived outside Florence, and was renowned as thinker, scientist, inventor and an artist.
He was born out of an illegitimate relationship between a peasant(Caterina) and a notary(Ser Peiro). When Leonardo was young, his mother married another man and started a new life.
From the age of 5 or more, he lived on an estate belonging to his father’s family. At that time, it was Leonardo’s uncle who had a special liking for nature that Leonardo shared when he grew up, also aided raise him.
Leonardo Da Vinci – Starting Years
Even though Leonardo received no basic education apart from math, writing, and basic reading, he got an opportunity to apprentice with the noted painter and sculptor, Andrea del Verrocchio.
Leonardo trained with him for more than a decade. His first work after becoming an independent artist was “Adoration of Magi”, for Scopeto monastery.
This work was left incomplete because Leonardo left for Milan and started to work as a sculptor, court function in-charge, architect, painter, and an engineer for the governing Sforza clan.
“Mona Lisa”, “The Last Supper”, And “The Vitruvian Man”
Although Leonardo Da Vinci did create many exquisite pieces of art in his entire career, nothing received such stardom as “La Gioconda” or “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper”.
“The Last Supper” was painted in Milan between 1495-1498. An oil mural and tempera on plaster, the stellar painting, “The Last Supper”, was commissioned by the Santa Maria Delle Grazie monastery.
Measuring around 15 by 29 feet, this painting is also known as “The Cenacle” and the only existing fresco created by Leonardo Da Vinci.
In this painting, Jesus Christ is seen with all the 12 Apostles before one of them actually betrays the lord.
When France captured Milan in 1499, Leonardo escaped to Venice and probably later to Florence. There he painted “La Gioconda”, alternatively famous as “Mona Lisa”.
As per reports, the woman in the painting is Lisa del Giocondo, wife of Francisco del Giocondo, a Florentine merchant.
It is the only painting from this timeline that has survived, currently housed in France’s Louvre Museum, attracting millions and millions of tourists every year.
Leonardo’s another most famous piece of art, the Vitruvian Man, deals with a study or analysis of the measurements or proportions of the normal human body, and linking science and art in a rare piece of work that is recognized as Renaissance Humanism.
Da Vinci's Philosophical Approach
Leonardo’s interests were very diverse and distinct. He studied weaponry, architecture, physics, anatomy, mechanics, and also about nature.
He created workable designs ranging from the military tank, submarine, helicopter or aerial screw, and the bicycle among others but that did not take shape several centuries even after his death.
Da Vinci saw art and sciences as a complementary discipline and believed that ideas created in either of this discipline should and could influence the other.
He believed in “ to learn how to actually see” (Saper Vedere) and the sight was everything according to Da Vinci.
Da Vinci – Final Stages
Having left Italy in the year 1516, Francis I, the French ruler conferred the title “Premier Architect and Engineer and Painter to the King”, where he was assisted by Melzi, and his last years were not really rosy looking at the correspondence during this period.
He lived and worked from Château of Cloux, located near Amboise, France. Later, he died at Clos-Luce’(present), previously known as Cloux in 1519 at the age of 67.
Leonardo Da Vinci - Inventions
Leonardo Da Vinci inventions were pretty much unknown during his days and reached worldwide acclaim only after his death, proving that great men like him take time to get acknowledgment from the general public.
During Leonardo’s lifetime, he was cherished as a remarkable engineer.
Some of the well-known inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci are
Revolving Bridge – Created for Duke Sforza, Da Vinci’s bridge was a mobile one, meaning the bridge could be disassembled and transported to a different location, mainly for the army to cross water bodies on the move in no time.
The bridge incorporated a rope-pulley system and had wheels for quick deployment and transport. Counterweight compartment for easy balance was also included.
According to Da Vinci, in his own words, he described the design as being “sturdy and light”.
Out of many bridges, he designed in his lifetime, Leonardo’s revolving bridge invention provided the army with the much-needed warfare advantage – maneuverability.
Flying Machine or Ornithopter – This invention has paved the way for the human civilization to believe that traveling against the force of gravity is a reality.
His flying machine invention was inspired by seeing and observing winged animals such as birds, kites, and bats.
Maybe, Da Vinci’s observation of bats is more predominant in the design because of the pointed ends of the device.
With a wingspan, more than 32 feet in length; the pinewood body is covered in silk giving a smooth and strong finish.
To operate the device, the pilot has to lie down facing the ground on a board created for this purpose. To move the vehicle, the crank has to be pedaled which would activate the rod-pulley system.
A provision for hand-crank along with a facility for steering with the head was also present. When the pilot operates the cranks using both his feet and hands, the wings flap.
Finally, Da Vinci would have understood that his design lacked practicality as it would be impossible to get the device off the block without enough thrust.
Helicopter or Aerial Screw – It was widely believed that Igor Sikorsky was inspired by Da Vinci’s design and improved upon it, later arriving at the modern-day version.
More than 450 years before a modern-day helicopter took to the skies, Leonardo’s helicopter design was made in 1493. The blades were around 2 meters long and the supporting structure was to be kept in place with the help of reeds.
The machine would propel upward if four men start to move the wooden shaft and thereby helping the screw-type blades to push air and move skywards.
It is necessary to note that humans do not have the required power-weight ratio like birds to float in the air and for this one reason alone nobody should come to a conclusion that this helicopter invention was a failure.
This brilliant invention once again proves that Leonardo Da Vinci’s design was too good for his time and moreover, displayed his enormous knowledge in any field he diverted attention.
Ball-Bearing – Between 1498 to 1500, Da Vinci came up with this invention of the ball bearing. Primarily designed to reduce friction between two entities or plates, this could have helped him to design the helicopter in a better way.
But this ball bearing invention proved his sharp intelligence because in today’s world nothing operates without it. Right from a Laptop to the big machines in the heavy industries, the ball bearing is a must needed component.
Although Leonardo invented it to keep the components of the helicopter in place, it took more than 294 years for Philip Vaughan to invent the modern version in 1794.
Parachute – According to sources, the first workable parachute is credited to Sebastien Lenormand in the year 1783, but it was Da Vinci who conceived this idea some hundred years ago.
Leonardo Da Vinci in his design has noted that “Se un Uomo ha un padiglione de pannolino intasato, the site 12 braccia per fascia e alto 12, potrà gittarsi d’ogni grande Altezza senza Danno di sé”, meaning, “if anyone has a device made using coated cloth 12 tall and 12 arms wide, he can jump from any height avoiding any injury”.
The most perplexing aspect which baffled modern-Day inventors was the shape of the canopy mentioned in the original design.
It was triangular and not round in shape like the current version. The overall weight of the structure was also questioned by many.
However, on 26th June 2000, Adrian Nicholas, the British Balloonist jumped from a height of 10,000 feet using a parachute designed as per Da Vinci’s specifications.
He landed smoothly and safely and the controversy surrounding the Da Vinci’s parachute design was put to rest once and for all.
33-Barrelled Device or Organ – At that time Da Vinci was convinced that the canons used were not only too slow but practically quite ineffective.
To tackle this problem, he designed a multi-barrelled shooting or firing device to thwart the enemy attack.
The idea revolves around stringing together 33 small-power guns. Each row would consist of 11 guns and all linked to one platform. Wheels were also incorporated into the platform.
The purpose of this invention is to have the machine functioning continuously on the battlefield, giving the side an unassailable advantage.
The invention resembled an organ, giving it the name 33-Barrelled Organ.
Anemometer – Historians believe that it was Da Vinci’s liking for flight travel that encouraged him to improve the anemometer, a device used for measuring wind speed.
He actually improvised the existing design created in 1450 by Leon Batista. In his design, Da Vinci created a device with an arched shape; a rectangular wood piece hanging inside.
The wood raises inside the frame when the wind blows. Based on the reading when the piece reaches the maximum point, the wind force can be measured accordingly.
Mechanical Knight – Even though a full-scale design of a complete working robot was not found, Da Vinci had left several fragments of a big drawing resembling a modern-day robot in his notebooks.
The mechanical suit mainly consisted of wheels and gears connected together to a cable and pulley system. With this design, the robot was capable enough to do certain actions like lifting the visor, moving the head, standing tall, and sitting down.
The noted robotics expert Mark Rosheim built a model robot using Da Vinci’s design as blueprints in the year 2002. The result was a simple yet working robot, once again proving the greatness of a genius like Da Vinci.
Scuba Gear – Leonardo’s fascination with everything he saw, heard, etc. was his biggest inspiration. Once while staying in Venice in 1500, he designed what was now regarded as the scuba suit to attack enemy ships.
The suit made out of leather was armed with a big mask attached to the head portion of the diver.
Two tubes made of cane were attached to the nose portion with a cork bell floating above the water. Air circulation was provided using the openings in the tubes.
Another feature in the suit was the inclusion of a balloon that can be deflated or inflated helping the user to sink or rise to the surface. A pouch for the diver to urinate was also included in the design.
Armored Vehicle/Tank – It is a well-known fact that the first tank was used only in the First World War whereas the very first design was developed some 500 years before by Leonardo Da Vinci.
The basic design consists of a series of cannons/guns placed strategically inside the shell or tank, operated by men present inside. The intention was very clear, to intimidate the enemy and weaken them psychologically.
The platform or the body of the tank was protected/covered using a turtle shell-like looking protective cover. A turret for sighting purpose was also included in the design.
Instead of humans cranking the device Leonardo also thought of employing horses in their place but gave up that idea since he understood that animals can become very unpredictable in closed confines.
The major design flaw – the powering levers were positioned to move in opposite ways, making it impossible to advance forward.
According to historians or scholars, a genius like Leonardo might have intentionally inserted the engineering flaw to prevent corrupt minds from taking over his invention to satisfy their thirst for power and authority.
Moreover, Da Vinci’s invention became well known only after his Codex Atlanticus was published centuries after his death.
Finally, master craftsmen, a sculptor, an artist, an inventor, and whatnot, a prodigy like Leonardo Da Vinci have proved to the world that with a passion for keen observation and imagination anyone can invent valuable things for the benefit of the masses.
Leonardo Da Vinci, an unparalled virtuoso.