Leonardo da Vinci | Renaissance Man

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"There can be no greater or lesser mastery than over oneself"
-- Leonardo Da Vinci

LEONARDO DA VINCI - Born April 15, 1452.
Died May 2, 1519 at the age of 67.

Leonardo da Vinci was one of the greatest inventor - scientists of recorded history. His genius was unbounded by time and technology, and was driven by his insatiable curiosity, and his intuitive sense of the laws of nature.

Da Vinci was dedicated to discovery of truth and the mysteries of nature, and his insightful contributions to science and technology were legendary. As the archetypal Renaissance man, Leonardo helped set an ignorant and superstitous world on a course of reason, science, learning, and tolerance. In his time, he was an internationally renowned inventor, scientist, engineer, architect, painter, sculptor, musician, mathematician, anatomist, astronomer, geologist, biologist, and philosopher.

In an era when left-handedness was considered the devil's work and lefties were often forced to use their right hand, Leonardo was an unrepentant southpaw. It has been suggested that this "difference" was an element of his genius, since his detachment allowed him to see beyond the ordinary. He even wrote backwards, and his writings are easily deciphered only with a mirror.

Born in 1452 as an illegitimate son of Ser piero da Vinci, da Vinci was sent to Florence in his teens to apprentice as a painter under Andrea del Verrocchio. He quickly developed his own artistic style which was unique and contrary to tradition, even going so far as to devise his own special formula of paint. His style was characterized by diffuse shadows and subtle hues and marked the beginning of the High Renaissance period. Like many great original efforts, da Vinci's artistic style was largely unpopular for the next quarter century.

Later Da Vinci became the court artist for the duke of Milan. Throughout his life he also served various other roles, including civil engineer and architect (designing mechanical structures such as bridges and aqueducts), and military planner and weapons designer (designing rudimentary tanks, catapaults, machine guns, and even naval weapons). Like any rational human, Leonardo abhorred war -- he called it "beastly madness" -- but since Renaissance Italy was constantly at war he couldn't avoid it. He designed numerous weapons, including missiles, multi-barreled machine guns, grenades, mortars, and even a modern-style tank. He drew the line, however, with his plans for an underwater breathing device, which he refused to reveal, saying that men would likely use it for "evil in war".

Between 1490 and 1495 he developed his habit of recording his studies in meticulously illustrated notebooks. His work covered four main themes: painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and human anatomy.

Da Vinci's creative, analytic, and visionary inventiveness has yet to be matched.

A small catalog of his innovative designs include:

Flying machines, parachutes, submarines, underwater rebreathing devices, self floatation/ocean rescue devices, swimming fins, pumping mechanisms, water turbines, dredging systems, steam calorimeters, water-well drill, swing bridges, canals, leveling/surveying instruments, cranes, pulley systems, street-lighting systems, convection roasting spit, mechanical saw, treadle-operated lathe, compasses, contact lenses, and military weapons.

Some famous scientific accomplishments include:

Proposing the earth rotates around the sun, proposing that the moon's light is reflected sunlight, correctly explaining why sea shells are sometimes found miles inland on mountain tops, and creating the first textbook of human anatomy.

Some great artistic masterpieces include:

The Baptism of Christ , The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and The Adoration of the Three Kings.


Biographical Notes


  • Leonardo is born in Vinci, April 15, 1452


  • Childhood in Vinci
  • Goes to Florence, is an apprentice in the studio of Verrocchio (1469)


  • Becomes a member of the corporation of painters (1472)
  • Completes his first known drawing, "La valle dell'Arno" ("The Arno Valley") (1473)
  • Paints an angel in Verrocchio's "Baptism of Christ" (1475)
  • Paints "The Annunciation" (1477)
  • Portrait of Ginevra de'Benci (1478)


  • Paints "San Gerolamo" and "The Adoration of the Magi" (1481)
  • Leaves Florence for Milan, in the service of Ludovico Sforza (1482-1483)
  • Paints the "Virgin of the Rocks" (1483-1486)
  • Begins to explore human flight (1486)
  • Anatomical drawings in the manuscripts (1488-1489)


  • Designs a flying machine (1492)
  • Works on the giant equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza (1493)
  • Studies the resistance of various types of arcades (1494)
  • Paints the second "Virgin of the Rocks" (1494)
  • Paints "The Last Supper" (1495)
  • Meets mathematician Luca Pacioli, with whom he studies Euclid (1496)
  • Paints "Madonna and Child with St. Anne" (1499)
    Leaves Milan (1499) to return to Florence, stops in Mantua and Venice (1500)


  • Cesare Borgia assumes Leonardo as military engineer (1502)
  • Designs war machines and draws topographical maps (1502-1503)
  • Draws studies for "The Battle of Anghiari" (1503-1506)
  • Paints "Mona Lisa" (1504?)
  • Studies the flight of birds, designs flying machines, and tries to square the circle (1505)
  • Studies fluid elements: water, air and fire (1506-1508)
  • Returns to Milan (1508)
  • Paints "St. Anne" (1509)


  • Undertakes detailed anatomical research (1510)
  • Goes to Rome seeking the patronage of the new pope, Leo X (1513)
  • Constructs a mechanical lion for the incoronation of Francis I, King of France (1515)
    Paints "Self-Portrait" (1515)
  • Goes to the court of Francis I, Amboise (1516)
  • Designs a palace in Romorantin (1517)
  • Leonardo dies in Amboise, May 2, 1519. Legend has it that King Francis was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo's head in his arms.

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