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Leonardo Da Vinci

     The lifetime accomplishments of Leonardo daVinci are not only astonishing but truly inspiring.  Leonardo made his mark as an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist.  The versatility and creative power of Leonardo mark him as a supreme example of renaissance genius.  He depicted in his drawings, with scientific precision and consummate artistry, subjects ranging from flying machines to caricatures.

     He also executed intricate anatomical studies of people, animals, and plants.  The richness and originality of intellect expressed in his notebooks reveal one of the greatest minds of all time. Leonardo da Vinci had a powerful mind and was a very curious and daring boy. Leonardo was so curious about flying, he jumped off a barn with wings that he made by himself. Leonardo loved nature and exploring. He would also like to draw geometrical shapes.  

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     Many people have heard of this brilliant man from his famous paintings and portraits such as the Mona Lisa, and the Madonna of the Rocks. Although Leonardo da Vinci devoted most of his life to artwork he also studied a lot of science, biology, mathematics, anatomy, and physics. He also was very interested in mechanics when he was a civil and military engineer. This man also studied the flight of birds for a long time. He was interested in the study of flight and had theories of how to make flying machines. He is assumed to be the first man who studied flight, and if it wasn't for him Orville and Wilbur Wright most likely wouldn't have constructed the first airplane. (Leonardo da Vinci, Irma A. Richter 1998)

     He was extremely interested in this area of science. Another thing he was involved with was the construction of canals and automation. He tried to make machines to transport people to different places, but he never accomplished this task. He also did experiments of nature including the stratification of rocks, the movement of light, the motion of water, and the growth of plants. Da Vinci's scientific carrer was extremely brilliant and his discoveries was really important. (Diane Stanley 2000)

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     Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452 in Vinci, Italy. Vinci was a farming community with hillsides, growing grapes, fruit trees and olives. His mother was a peasant woman and his father was a notary. He was often alone, exploring and experimenting in the hills and other areas of his home. This gave him a bond and a love of nature that is reflected in all his art and sculpture. As a teenager, Leonardo was apprenticed to an artist and sculptor, named Andrea Del Verrocchio in Florence.

     By the age of twenty-one Leonardo was an accomplished painter and sculptor. He painted many portraits of royalty, dukes, duchesses, kings and queens. His most famous portrait is the 'Mona Lisa'. The subject was the wife of a Florentine merchant. Its fame is due to her strange and mysterious smile. It is thought that Leonardo used court jesters to make her smile as he worked (Irma A. Richter 1998).  Margaret Livingstone, a present-day authority on visual processing, has a scientific explanation about Mona Lisa's smile. 
     When people look at a face, their eye goes to the eyes, and the peripheral vision, (the side vision), which is less accurate, goes to the other areas of the face. So, when someone looks at the eyes of Mona Lisa, the peripheral vision goes to her mouth, and the shadows painted there by Leonardo suggest to the viewer that "elusive smile". If you just looked at her mouth, she doesn't seem to be smiling at all.  With Leonardo's extensive study of optics, this could have been deliberate, adding to his genius. 

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     Leonardo experimented with different types of paints and plaster. This was probably one of the reasons for his interest in these arts, because he left so many works unfinished. Through his painting and sculpture, he found away to pursue his experiments and use the things he learned, and still be accepted by the society he lived in. (Diane Stanley 2000)

     By 1503 he worked to aid Florence's war with Pisa. He designed an aqua duct plan to cut off the water to Pisa so that Florence would win the war. He was then established as a creative and talented engineer. He was often in the employ of the Nobility for his engineering skills. He served as Principal engineer for the Duke of Milan and drew up plans, for portable bridges, ships, armored vehicles, catapults, and other war machines.

     In 1514s to 1516 Leonardo lived in Rome, and built both toys and machines. He studied optics and tried to make large round mirrors, like the ones used in telescopes.  Craftsmen in Leonardo's time knew how to use and repair familiar machines.

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     Leonardo figured if he could understand how each machine part worked; he could use these parts to make new machines.

He was also interested in botany, human anatomy, and used animal parts from a butcher shop to study. He also tried to dissect a human corpse, but got in trouble with the Catholic Church because it was considered a sin (Diane Stanley 2000). But he was able to develop a model of how the human heart works. 

     In 1514s to 1516 Leonardo lived in Rome, and built both toys and machines. He studied optics and tried to make large round mirrors, like the ones used in telescopes.  Craftsmen in Leonardo's time knew how to use and repair familiar machines. Leonardo figured if he could understand how each machine part worked; he could use these parts to make new machines. (Irma A. Richter 1998)

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     Leonardo made sketches and plans of things like a tank, helicopters, a plane, and an arithmetic machine.  These are common machines in our lives.  His early thinking about the arithmetic machine was the start of things that came after it like the abacus, the slide rule, the adding machine, the calculator and finally the computer.

     Leonardo da Vinci wrote in a way that no one else did. He used a technique called mirror writing in which his letters appear backwards. No one knows the true reason why he used mirror writing but he might have tried to make it harder for people to read his notes and get his ideas. He might have been hiding his scientific ideas from the Roman Catholic Church who disagreed with what Leonardo was trying to learn.

     In that time people were not supposing to question anything thought to be created by God.   Writing left handed from left to right was messy because the ink that he just put down would smear as his hand moved across it and writing in the other direction would prevent smudging.

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     On May 2, 1519 in Cloux France, Leonardo da Vinci died. He died of old age. If Leonardo da Vinci were alive today he might try to make artificial organs or a cure for AIDS and cancer. He might try to figure out a way to fly without planes and helicopters or a way to prevent air pollution.
     Leonardo da Vinci   left many unseen notebooks after he died. All of the notebooks that Leonardo left contained mirror writing. One of the notebooks is in the British Museum and known as the Codex Arundel. These are loose papers, which come from various times of his life, are about the physical and geographical effects of water. Leonardo hoped to write a book about this subject.

     The Renaissance was a special time in the history of man. The word renaissance means rebirth. The Renaissance came following the Dark Ages. It was an explosion of creativity in art, literature, science and music.  Leonardo da Vinci was born in these times. He was known as the "Renaissance Man", because he himself was an 'explosion' of all these things, and brought so much to them.   Before the Renaissance, people had to spend their entire lives just struggling to exist. 

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     As a scientist, Leonardo was known to have brought together the ancient methods with that of modern ones. During his stay in Milan, he studied and researched many topics such as anatomy, zoology, botany, geology, optics, aerodynamics and hydrodynamics among others. Leonardo unlike his predecessors was known to have taken a different kind of approach towards nature, it was known as the observational approach. He observed things that normal people did not see at time and would constantly ask himself questions of how things exist and work. He even went as far as dissecting dead bodies to figure out how human organs and body works; he paid special attention to small organs which were hidden such as capillaries. Leonardo drew many images of human skeletons in his book and was the first to describe he double S form of the backbone. (Irma A. Richter 1998)

     He also was able to draw the human skull, the brain and its sections remarkably well. Leonardo not only studied the human body but also studied many animals. His study of human anatomy is also believed to have led the design of first known robot in history which came into being in 1495 but was actually thoroughly researched in 1950s. Recently, Leonardo’s diagram of the heart inspired a British heart surgeon to pioneer a new way to repair damaged hearts in 2005.

     As you can see, Leonardo was a genius. He was extremely open-minded in his thinking. He wanted to know things, just for the sake of knowing them. He put pieces of knowledge together in different and new ways, like pieces of puzzles.  His imagination gave him ideas that were hundreds of years ahead of his time. What we can learn from Leonardo is there is always something to discover in learning new things, and that something can be found in looking at something in many different ways.  And each person can be many things throughout their lifetime.

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Works Cited

The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci by Leonardo da Vinci, Irma A. Richter; Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; New Ed edition (November 25, 1998).

Leonardo da Vinci by Diane Stanley; Publisher: Harper Trophy (September 30, 2000); ISBN-10: 0688161553.

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