Leonardo Da Vinci was a man of many talents. However, most of the world remembers him as an artist. That can easily be attributed to his world renowned painting Mona Lisa, which became one of the most sung about and studied paintings of the world. The same can be said about ‘The Last Supper’ which is also the most reproduced and appreciated religious paintings of all time.
However, the 15th century French genius was a lot more than just a painter. He was a polymath, harbouring an interest in almost everything. Innovation, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, are just some areas of his talents. His thought process and empirical methods were more logical than most of his contemporaries.
Quite recently, hidden numbers and symbols were also found in Mona Lisa’s pupils. To find the meaning of these is a task still being undertaken by the French Government. What many people also don’t know about are the plethora of inventions that are to Da Vinci’s name. Some of these inventions are so ingenious and scientific, that it would only be right to consider this man a super genius.
So, let’s take a look at some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s lesser known ‘works’.
Da Vinci’s Flying Machines
Going by the details found in Da Vinci’s sketches and notebooks, he was particularly fascinated with flight. Two of his sketches related to inventions of flying are his version of the parachute, and his ornithopter.
Although the first parachute is recognized through Sebastien Lenormand in 1783, Leonardo da Vinci actually conceived an idea of a specimen a few hundred years earlier. Da Vinci made a sketch of the invention with this accompanying description: “If a man have a tent made of linen of which the apertures (openings) have all been stopped up, and it be twelve braccia (about 23 feet) across and twelve in depth, he will be able to throw himself down from any great height without suffering any injury.”
Maybe the most unmistakable part of Da Vinci’s parachute was that the canopy was triangular instead of a rounded one. It drove numerous to address whether it would really have enough air resistance to drift. What’s more, since Da Vinci’s parachute was to be made with material covering a wood casing, the robust weight of the gadget likewise was seen as an issue.
Proofs regarding Da Vinci actually trying to build this parachute of his were extremely scarce. However, in 2000, adrenaline junkie Adrian Nichols developed a model taking into account Da Vinci’s configuration and tried it. And despite skepticism, Nichols even noticed that it had a smoother ride than our everyday parachutes.
Man has always longed to fly like a bird, and Da Vinci possessed the same dream. And he even possessed the genius to make that dream come true, even if only on paper. His ornithopter can be regarded as one his most ambitious inventions yet.
The proof of him actually building the machine is scarce, yet the machine is intriguing. An ornithopter is human-flying machine, inspired by the flight of birds, insects and bats. Da Vinci’s ornithopter was influenced largely by a bat’s wings going by the two pointed wings of the creature.
The machine had a wingspan that exceeded 33 feet, and the frame was to be made of pine covered in raw silk to create a light but sturdy membrane. The pilot would lie face down in the center of the invention on a board. To power the wings, the pilot would pedal a crank connected to a rod-and-pulley system.
The machine also had a hand crank for increased energy output, and a head piece for steering. As the busy pilot spins cranks with his hands and feet, the wings of the machine flap. The inspiration of nature in the invention is apparent in the way the wings were designed to twist as they flapped. A team led by James DeLaurier at the University of Toronto tried to create Da Vinci’s ornithopter in 2004, called the Snowbird.
Da Vinci’s war weapons
It is widely believed that Leonardo had his ideals set in peace. However, the record of his war weapons disputes that belief. These weapons and innovations are ingenious and timeless. Recreations have also been made by people, eager to display the workibility of his blueprints.
15th century cannons took a lot of time to load and fire. Da Vinci came up with a solution of the same by creating a vision of a multi barrelled cannon that could be loaded and fired simultaneously. This machine featured 33 small-calibre guns connected together. The canons were divided into three rows of 11 guns each, all connected to a single revolving platform. Attached to the sides of the platform were large wheels.
All the guns would be loaded and then, during battle, the first row of 11 would be fired. The platform would then be rotated to properly aim the next row of canons. The idea was that while one set of canons was being fired, another set would be cooling and the third set could be loaded. This system allowed soldiers to repeatedly fire without interruption.
The whole concept is very common to the machine gun of our times, even when their production did not start until the 19th century. If this is not a proof of Vinci’s ‘timeless’ capability, then nothing else could be.
Da Vinci, like any other artist, had a knack for showmanship and understood the importance of it. He understood the power of intimidation. Thus he created his giant crossbow on paper, a weapon that would have made enemies flee than fight.
The crossbow was to measure approximately 27 yards across. The device would have six wheels (three on each side) for mobility, and he bow itself would be made of thin wood for flexibility. The crossbow wasn’t to fire arrows, rather stones or flaming rocks. The soldier would have to spin a crank to pull back the bow and load the weapon. The holding pin would then be knocked out through a mallet to fire it.
Da Vinci was an inventor far above his peers. In an age where even the most basic computer did not exist, he thought of building a robot for a pageant in Milan. The robot could sit, move its head and lift its visor if we go according to his sketches.The entire robotic system was operated by a series of pulleys and cables.
Renditions of the automaton have been built by many, including Minnesota-based Mark Rosheim. He spent five years poring over the genius’ sketches and created a fully functional 15th century robotic knight.
Makes one think about the diversity and logic Leonardo Da Vinci held in his thoughts. A man who created things far beyond his time.
Maybe his sketchbooks also entail a time travelling machine?
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