TECH & SCI­ENCE

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - WITH CHRIS

LEONARDO di ser Piero da Vinci. Of all the great fig­ures in his­tory, he, per­haps above all oth­ers, has been a source of in­spi­ra­tion and awe for count­less peo­ple.

Per­haps most well known for his mas­ter­ful paint­ing, par­tic­u­larly the Mona Lisa and The Last Sup­per, Da Vinci is also re­garded by schol­ars to be a univer­sal ge­nius, for very good rea­son.

With ar­eas of study and in­ter­est which in­cluded in­ven­tion, paint­ing, sculpting, ar­chi­tec­ture, sci­ence, mu­sic, math­e­mat­ics, en­gi­neer­ing, lit­er­a­ture, anatomy, ge­ol­ogy, as­tron­omy, botany, writ­ing, his­tory, and car­tog­ra­phy, da Vinci demon­strated a knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of the nat­u­ral world that was decades, and in many in­stances, cen­turies be­yond his con­tem­po­raries.

For this ar­ti­cle I would like to touch on a few of his great­est and most for­ward think­ing in­ven­tions - some well known, while a few might sur­prise you.

The He­li­copter (Aerial Screw)

Although the first he­li­copter wasn’t built un­til the 1940’s, Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches of his aerial screw are thought to be the pre­de­ces­sor of the mod­ern day chop­per.

While he never ac­tu­ally built the ma­chine, his draw­ings and notes give a full and de­tailed pic­ture of how the ma­chines would op­er­ate, and what it would be con­structed of.

The de­vice, just like the mod­ern day he­li­copter, was de­signed to com­press air to achieve flight, how­ever, due to the weight con­straints of the ma­te­ri­als avail­able at the time, sci­en­tists be­lieve the de­vice would not have been able to achieve flight.

Da Vinci was a big pro­po­nent of the screw shape for a va­ri­ety of pur­poses, and used it in many of his de­signs for var­i­ous in­ven­tions.

The Ideal City

Not con­tent sim­ply with cre­at­ing works of art and small scale in­ven­tions, da Vinci also put his mind to the task of con­cep­tu­al­is­ing an ideal city.

Per­haps shocked by the plague that rav­aged the city of Mi­lan, killing a third of the city’s pop­u­la­tion, Leonardo wanted to de­sign a city that would be more united, with greater com­mu­ni­ca­tions, ser­vices and san­i­ta­tion to pre­vent the fu­ture spread of such dis­eases.

His ideal city com­prised of a se­ries of canals that would be used for both com­mer­cial pur­poses, as well as a sew­er­age sys­tem.

The city was two-tiered, with the lower city be­ing for tradesmen, while the up­per city be­ing re­served for ‘gen­tle­men’.

Da Vinci also de­signed the city to have broad roads, in re­sponse to Mi­lans nar­row and clogged streets which likely contributed to the spread of the plague.

If one con­sid­ers that many doc­tors dur­ing the time pe­riod were ‘treat­ing’ plague vic­tims by rub­bing fe­ces into buboes, it’s not hard to imag­ine that the ad­van­tages of Leonardo’s city san­i­ta­tion meth­ods sim­ply would not have been un­der­stood by the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of peo­ple he lived and worked around.

Self-pro­pelled Cart

Be­fore mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cles were even a glim­mer in some­one’s eye, Leonardo da Vinci de­signed a self­pro­pelled cart ca­pa­ble of mov­ing with­out be­ing pushed. Among its other ac­com­plish­ments, many con­sider da Vinci self-pro­pelled cart in­ven­tion to be the world’s first ro­bot.

The self-pro­pelled cart was one of the many in­ven­tions that Leonardo cre­ated deal­ing with lo­co­mo­tion and trans­porta­tion.

Leonardo’s cart was pow­ered by coiled springs and it also fea­tured steer­ing and brake ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

When the brake was re­leased, the car would pro­pel for­ward, and the steer­ing was pro­gram­mable to go ei­ther straight or at an­gles.

Da Vinci’s cart de­sign was so ahead of its time that its ex­act work­ings con­founded schol­ars un­til late in the 20th cen­tury.

But, in 2006, Italy’s In­sti­tute and Mu­seum of the His­tory of Sci­ence in Florence built a work­ing model based on da Vinci’s de­sign and, to the sur­prise of many, the cart ac­tu­ally worked.

FOR­WARD THINKER: Per­haps most fa­mous for his paint­ings, Leonardo da Vinci - like other ‘Re­nais­sance Men’ was a true poly­math who dab­bled in a va­ri­ety of in­tel­lec­tual pur­suits.

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