Leonardo da Vinci was an influential artist, inventor and architect with a wide range of interests in scultpure, anatomy, music, astronomy, writing and philosophy. He documented his researches in notebooks written in Latin mirror writing such as the Codex Atlanticus.
He was born on 15 April, 1452 in Vinci, a small town of Italy. At 17 he apprenticed under Andrea del Verrochio. By 25 he was a masterful artist. During his 20s he had a gargantuan ego, as can be seen in some of his works from that era.
Leonardo was designing a 24ft sculpture of Francesco Sforza on horseback (he made a series of sketches but he never actualized it). This proposition got him the job in the employ of Duke Ludovico Sforza as military architect and engineer from 1482 to 1489. Apparently Sforza was very impressed by Leonardo's letter than he funded him to build the Da Vinci Studio where he got a chance to field test many of his ideas, and was working to give his patron a strategic advantage while waging war against the Venetian Republic. He also designed systems of siege defense (trying to outwit himself). Of course during the war money was arriving sporadically.
One for his interests was anatomy in artistic context, but his thirst of knowledge led him to the deep study of human body and physiology. Human dissection was strictly forbidden by the Church but Leonardo performed secret studies on cadavers, leading the most comprehensive mapping of the human body of his age. To protect himself and his studies he worked in secret. The spiral elevators might have been a way to load cadavers quietly to his lab. In one of his writings he claimed that he wrote "120 books" of anatomy. None of them were found, other than surviving notes and sketches.
While in Milan Leonardo developed an obsession with flight which he kept for the rest of his life. He made keen observations on the flight of birds, the mechanics of air resistance and the edding movements of fluids and started constructing fly machines. A legend says that he himself also attepted to fly.
In 1488 he entered a competition to design the capella of an unfinished cathedral of Milan, but he withdrew from the contest, perhaps the bigger dome was a bigger challenge. His rival, Brunellesci of Florence who solved the architectural problem. His ideas for constructing a large dome were put to practice at the studio. The complex's architecture incorporated a lot of ideas Leonardo explored in his notebooks (with influence from Florentine architecture).
He died on 2 May 1519.
His most famous works include
- Mona Lisa,
- Last Supper,
- Virgin and Child with St. Anne,
- Virgin of the Rocks (a second version commissioned by a monastery which made him famous in Milan),
- Portrait of a Musician (believed to be the portrait of his friend Atalante Miglioretti)
He was also famous for dozens of inventions concerning weaponry, textile, transportation, lifting, automation and flight. With ideas ahead of their time, he actualized very few. Most of them didn't always work. It is not known whether any of the flying machines designed by Leonardo were ever built; if so, they were certainly not capable of flight. However, as his designs and concepts could be seen in working flying machines centuries later, there's no denying that da Vinci must be credited as the father of the flying machine.
- Man-powered table saw
- Siege elevator
- Multi barrelled guns 4 centuries before the age of the gatling guns
- A hoist design. He initially created it for the casting of the Horse, but eventually he made use of the hoist to create the tank.
- Tank (According to Arthur the tank he created in his studio would be too heavy and indiscreet)
- A giant mortar
- A machine of unknown usage which, according to Arthur, hits the operator with a barrage of rocks.
- Flying machines resembling helicopters (Arthur also commented that lacking a stablizer, the pilot would rotate around himself)
- Ornithopters (although they would be too heavy, including the "body builder" required to pedal)
- An elevator with a system of cogwheels driven by a turnstile running a triple helix track, replacing the need of stairways. A pulley system below enabled the platform to be lowered.
- Giant crossbow (a huge ballista which could hurl a rope far away in naval combat or siege operations)
- Leonardo was also an accoplished usician and composer and designed new instruments such as the viola organist and a drum machine (making him the spiritual ancestor of the Pet Shop Boys, according to Arthur)