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Updated on September 6, 2012

All centuries throw up great minds, which illuminate the world with their knowledge, but there are a few, who are so versatile that, they stand out as beacons in the vast sea of eternity. Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) was one such genius, who excelled in all fields of knowledge which he cared to probe. He was an Artist, engineer, architect, biologist and philosopher; with contributions so immense, that there are very few who can match him in range of knowledge.


Leonardo was born (1452) in a small town called Vinci, near Florence and was the son of a lawyer. He was a precocious child who displayed at an early age talent in drawing, modeling and mathematics. Discovering his talents, his father sent him to Florence where he came in contact with a group of talented young painters. By the time he was twenty, he became a member of Florentine Guild of painters. Though his creative output at Florence was minimal, his artistic and scientific sensibilities were heightened which he recorded in his note books “bright colors captivate the crowd, but the true artist seeks to delight the judicious rather than the vulgar… sacrifice shadows to mere splendor of color is to behave like a babbler who cares more for high-sounding language than for what he is saying”


From Florence he moved to Milan, where under the patronage of the Duke he used his sharp intellect to focus on works not only relating to painting and sculptor, but also engineering and town planning. He jotted in his notebook his unique ideas “I have a method of making bridges that shall be light, strong and easy to transport, others again which cannot be destroyed by fire or battle. Also methods of burning or to lay mines noiselessly, and even if required, under a trench or a river. I will also make covered chariots, immune from attack, which will be able to pass into the ranks of the enemy, despite the opposing artillery, and will be indestructible by even the largest body of men. Behind these the infantry could follow unhurt and unhindered.” Long before battle tanks and torpedoes became a reality, these ideas germinated in the fertile mind of Leonardo da Vinci.


When the French occupied Milan, Leonardo went back to Florence, where he briefly served the infamous Cesare Borgia. Much of his military ideas were put to use, but soon he moved to Rome where, more than his artistic interests he devoted his time to science. Enamored by the works of Archimedes he eagerly searched for his manuscripts. But unlike others he relied more upon observation and experiment rather than the statements of established authorities. This scientific approach helped him to arrive at conclusions which were far ahead of his times. He realized the impossibility of perpetual motion and derived the law of the lever and the principles of hydrodynamics and hydrostatics. His curious mind probed the most complex of all machines ----namely the human body. At a time when dissection was frowned upon he dissected more than ten human bodies, and made the most precise anatomical drawing. He was able to explain how nutriments are carried to different parts of the body, and seemed to have understood the circulation of blood much before Harvey established it as a scientific fact. His scientific bent of mind denounced astrology and alchemy. He placed great importance to observation, which should be quantified wherever possible, and then put to test by experimenting.

His artistic contributions never wavered, and he brought out two masterpieces which continues to mesmerize people even today, they are the LAST SUPPER and MONA LISA, the last being the portrait of a Neapolitan beauty. His final years were in France, were he was the court artist of King Francis I. Leonardo was in fact was the vital link which helped mankind to outgrow the limitations of medieval period and make the first floundering steps to modernity in thought.


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