Awesome Minds: Leonardo da Vinci


Leonardo da Vinci

Very few people in this world can compete with Leonardo da Vinci for the title of The Supreme Genius of all ages. He is a true polymath and is regarded as a renaissance man. He is one of the most famous and most talented artists the world has ever seen. His artworks include the very famous and most valuable Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, Vitruvian Man, Virgin Of The Rocks and many many more. He was not only an artist he was an engineer, an anatomist and a chronicler of science. His innovations were so advanced and so ahead of his time that even now, with this vast amount of technology at our hands we are still learning from his documentaries. Unfortunately, most of his scientific work documented in at least 7000 pages of notes remained lost or hidden around the world for centuries after his death. And he didn’t know Latin, so most of his work didn’t make an impact on the then scientific world as Latin was the main language used by the scientific community back then. So he couldn’t publish his works to the world even if he wanted to. As a result of this, despite his pioneering research he couldn’t make a considerable impact on the science and technology of that time.

Mona Lisa

The Last Supper

Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy. Yes, ‘da Vinci’ means ‘of Vinci’. Much against our expectations Leonardo did not receive any form of education from anyone except for normal reading, writing and basic math. He was very much interested in painting and hence became an apprentice of the famous artist Andrea del Verrocchio where he remained until his mid 20s. By that time he became a master in painting and sculpting. He then went on to painting the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and many more famous artworks.

In late 1400’s when Leonardo was coming up as an artist most of the world was devoid of real science. All of the peoples believes were based on bible or from the ancient philosophers and a lot of which was often superstitious or completely untrue. Leonardo did not bother about those believes, he was all about experimentation, observation and reasoning. But the best ability of Leonardo was to observe and meticulously record his experiments and thoughts in words and graphic illustrations of artwork.



He was obsessed with flight. He observed various birds and analysed how their feathers and muscles worked together to make them fly. He thought if birds can fly then humans can too. He documented all of his observations and recordings in notebooks called codices. In early 1500s he put forward a notebook which contained all about flight of birds. It was called the ‘Codex on the Flight of Birds’. It has over 35,000 words and 500 sketches related to flight, balance, gravity, the properties of air and his famous flying machine ideas. He was the designer of the first parachute and he also designed a flying machine called Ornithopter which was proved to be working. All this happened 100s of years  before the world could ever see any kind of progress towards an actual flying machine.

Underwater breathing mask

He was also obsessed with all states of water. He drew plans for different kinds of water wheels, steam powered cannons, humidity measuring devices and various machines that could work on different states of water. He also designed an underwater breathing mask and a submarine.

He made a lot of war machines which were proven functioning and genius. Leonardo may be the best inventor the world has ever seen or will ever see, his ideas often were beyond the technology of his age or required a lot of money which he did not have. But none of these inventions ever combined his passion for art and science more than his interest in Anatomy, which is perhaps his greatest scientific contribution.

He dissected more than 30 human bodies. He sketched with great detail the renderings of muscles, nerves, bones, skulls and hearts. Every piece of muscle, cage of bone is a masterpiece in itself. He made wax structures of human organs in order to observe how they function and react. He was figuring out things that no one knew at that time. As his last crusade he studied about heart. He sent molten wax into the heart and made a glass model out of the wax moldings and pumped blood into it to observe the opening and closing of valves. His discovery about these valves and heart were revolutionary and are fundamental to the functioning of heart. But as his works were never published, not until the 20th century cardiologists started figuring this stuff out. They confirmed that Leonardo was absolutely right in his findings.

Even with today’s technology scientists are still learning from Leonardo’s observations. As many of the greatest scientist Leonardo’s contributions weren’t recognized until long after his death. He was a true inter disciplinary genius with his contributions ranging a vast range of scientific disciplines from Anatomy to Flight to War machines. But there is still a lot we can learn from him. His integration of various disciplines was mind blowing. Leonardo was a true genius as he knew all these things 500 years ago and we are still trying to figure these out. He is truly awesome-tacular.

What do you think of Leonardo da Vinci? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.