TECH & SCIENCE
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.
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.