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Leonardo Da Vinci: Master Scientist
Leonardo Da Vinci is a cultural force to be reckoned with, not only did he master the arts, he was a man of the world and everything in it. One of his most acclaimed studies is his anatomical drawings which were miles ahead of his contemporaries. Many of his observations of the human body would not be discovered until centuries later, while our modern understanding allows us to see how accurate he depicted parts of the body. Undoubtedly this is down to his ingenious mind, but also his artistic eye for observation. The combination of these skills squarely puts Leonardo Da Vinci among many great scientists and continues to add to the artists incredible skill set. Sadly as his drawings were not published straight away, the contribution he would have made to the field is unknown.
The Structure of the Heart
Leonardo's observations of the heart aren't only a testament to his skills as a scientist but the incredible engineering feats he could reach as well. Through reconstructing the heart, Leonardo was able to observe how the aortic valve opened and closed, ensuring that the blood flowed in the right direction. Then by pumping a liquid into the reconstructed heart, he witnessed how the vortices helped close the aortic valve, furthermore he deduced that there were four chambers in the heart and that while the atrium chambers contract together, the ventricles would relax and vice versa. The immense intelligence of Leonardo can't be contradicted even within one aspect of his research. The ability to understand the unknown and be able to adapt to his situation led to his amazing discoveries. Without his keen eye and the innate ability to connect small pieces together it would have been extremely difficult to discover how the flowing of the blood worked.
The skull would have been an easier subject for Leonardo to observe, because of the bodies he used to help in his scientific advancement. Although this could also be said for the heart, he wouldn't have been able to see it in motion. For example, as discussed above, witnessing the movement of blood and the movement of the aortic valve. However, Leonardo's rendering of the skull is completely anatomically correct and records meticulous amounts of detail. 'Leonardo's image is as accurate as anything that can be produced by scientific artists working today', the finite details that he is able to portray in the skull are truly magnificent and a testament to his abilities as an artist as well. He is able to record the slight indentations within the skull with computer like accuracy, a quality that envelopes every piece of Leonardo's work.
Leonardo's depiction of the spine alone would have secured him a place in the medical hall of fame, as he was the first one to record an accurate drawing of the spine and with such extraordinary detail. He is able to convey the natural curve to the spine and all the individual vertebrates that make up its structure. The protrusions from the spine are elegantly drawn and fit perfectly with any modern day rendering.
Although Leonardo was able to get a hold of corpses there were still reservations and traditions he adhered to. Therefore the depiction of the embryo is probably one of his least anatomically correct drawings. The general consensus at the time was that the reproductive system was akin to a flower. Believing that it opened up like a flower with the baby inside. Even though this is not as ground breaking as the other drawings it is a beautiful look into the zeitgeist into the world at the time and their attitudes towards such matters. Furthermore it once again displays Leonardo's irrefutable artistic skills.
Muscle and Bones
These drawings are particularly interesting as they show the relationship between bones and muscles and how they work within the body. In addition, through his work we are able to see the interweaving nature of the muscles and how they move the body. While looking at Leonardo's drawings you get a life like quality to the image as he is able to convincingly mimic the complexity of the human body. This undoubtedly was a big part of his career as an artist, because he would have understood how the muscles react under pressure or other physical forces and be able to create a realistic image based on that.
Finally we can conclude that Leonardo encompasses the ideal of the Renaissance and of Renaissance Humanism as well. Not only could he master many intellectual pursuits, his manner and desire for knowledge epitomises the ideal of the time. The line between science and art has never been so blurred as it is with Leonardo and perhaps to truly reach his intellectual peaks we need to do the same. The eagerness for a thinking attitude that pushed many great figures to an immortal pedestal could not have asked for a more perfect individual than Da Vinci.