Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci (born today in 1452, died May 2, 1519) was the quintessential Renaissance Man. (No, there was no such thing as a Renaissance Woman. Women weren’t allowed to participate in most of the appropriate activities. Sorry.) In an age that honored men who could do a wide variety of things well, he excelled at everything. He was a great painter who created pieces that are still famous enough to be regularly spoofed, such as The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa; he was an architect and a sculptor. As an inventor, he filled his notebooks with designs for flying machines, parachutes, submarines, underwater breathing devices, swim fins, pumping mechanisms, water turbines, well drills, leveling and surveying equipment, cranes, pulley systems, street lights, mechanical saws, compasses, contact lenses, and weapons; as a scientist, he proposed that the earth rotates around the sun and that that the moon's light is reflected sunlight, correctly explained why sea shells are sometimes found miles inland on mountain tops, studied anatomy from corpses, and created the first textbook of human anatomy. About the only thing he didn’t do was write poetry. And finish things – he was bad at finishing things because he was too busy thinking about something new. (This is my new excuse when I have too many projects unfinished: but Leonardo da Vinci didn't finish projects either!)

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