The Extraordinary Genius of Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was a spark. He was a luminous force in a dark world trembling in fear and ignorance for a millenia. Da Vinci is widely thought of just as an artist and painter. But Da Vinci was so much more than that. He may very well have been the most extraordinary man who’s ever lived.
Forget the two abominable movies called The Da Vinci Code that soiled his name.
Let’s talk about the real man that Leonardo Da Vinci was.
Today, he’s widely thought of as an artist and painter. Were that the case, his masterful brushstrokes on canvass would alone be worthy of universal adoration. But Da Vinci was so much more than that. He may very well have been the most extraordinary man that’s ever lived.
Da Vinci painted what is arguably the most revered masterpiece in history — the Mona Lisa. He also painted The Last Supper, which is the first revelation of Jesus and the 12 apostles ever in human form.
Da Vinci was also a scientist.
He was an inventor.
He was a philosopher.
He was a sculptor.
He was an architect.
He was a mathematician.
He was a geologist.
He was a cartographer.
He was a botanist.
He was a writer.
He was a luminous force in a dark world trembling in fear and ignorance for a millenia. The world was a horribly dark place largely because of that one universal inhibitor of all humanity — the church. Which all goes to show that the 21st century we live in now isn’t all that much different from the oppressive mind shackles that buckled down most of the world way back in the 1500s.
Consider the remarkable risks Da Vinci personally took in the pursuit of knowledge.
Church teachings and popular attitudes f the day made free-thinking a difficult — and sometimes dangerous — exercise. To challenge the conventional wisdom of the day — so-called “wisdom” like believing the world was flat — put the curious free-thinker at risk for excommunication or worse — execution.
His era was just a few generations removed from evils of the Inquisition. Yet, burning witches at the stake for blasphemy had not yet begun. Indeed, to be an enlightened man in Da Vinci’s time was a perilous curse. It came at a cost. Knowledge, and the pursuit thereof, came with a risk.
Fortunately, Da Vinci wasn’t dissuaded by fear or threats. He was an early pioneer in the movement that eventually became known today as “humanism” (my interpretation). He was the first to publicly advance the notion that man was capable of managing his own destiny, placing himself instantly at odds with church (and state) doctrine. But Da Vinci was fortunate enough to live and work in what was one of the world’s most advanced societies. He was able to get away with things that would have been blasphemous just about anywhere else. No doubt, had Da Vinci’s genius not been recognized and to a certain degree protected by very powerful oligarchs (Italy was not a united country at the time, but rather a mix of city-states), much of the world would have remained a dark place for a longer period of time.
Listing Da Vinci’s innumerable works and disoveries cannot possibly be done here. There are entire websites and volumes of literature devoted solely to his life’s work. But at least one area of his research still strikes me as remarkable — even in this day and age.
Few readers know many of the things I am about to list here. Incredible as it may seem, Da Vinci made these discoveries. In fact, he broke the law at times and took great risks to conduct his research, much of which was conducted secretly on cadavers. Back in the day, the church forbade such practices.
Here’s a short look at Da Vinci’s contributions to the scientific knowledge and human anatomy. See how many of these facts you know:
1. The face is divided into three equal parts.
2. The forehead is 1/3rd of the face.
3. The nose is 1/3rd of the face.
4. The jaw is 1/3rd of the face.
1. A person’s height is four cubits.
2. The top of the head to the nipples is one cubit.
3. The nipples to the genitals is one cubit.
4. The genitals to the knee is one cubit.
5. The knee to the sole of the foot is one cubit.
6. And, the width of the shoulders is also exactly one cubit!
1. A person’s height is equal to his arm span.
2. The exact center of the human body is the genitals.
3. The size if the head is equal to 1/8th of the person’s height.
MORE THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT DA VINCI:
1. He was the first to discover and document arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
2. He conducted extensive research on internal organs. He was the first to draw the human appendix, the lungs, the urinary tract, and reproductive organs. He was the first to create scientific drawings of a human fetus.
3. He created detailed images of the human skeleton and was the first to test movements and limitations of bones and muscles.
4. He was among the first to theorize that the brain areas had different functions.
5. He was the first to declare man’s ability to fly solo to be a practical impossibility, due to the body frame, shape, and relative strength of muscles required for flight. For this reason, he focused much of his attention on the deign of flying machines.
6. He was the first person to paint and sculpt subjects with human flaws. He documented the deformities of old age and portrayed these images in his works. His philosophy was that humanity included a mix of beauty and ugliness, good and evil.
SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT DA VINCI
1. He was an illegitimate child.
2. He was a strict vegetarian — one of the first in history to refuse to eat animal products of any kind. He would not even drink milk.
3. He was left-handed.
4. He was one of the first Italians to use oil paints.
5. He invented a prototype of a bicycle that eventually was created for the first time some 300 years later.
6. He invented the first air-filled chamber so it would float on the water.
7. He came up with the ideas for and sketched many weapons later used in war — such as a parachute, armored car, tank, and helicopter.
8. He never married or had children.
9. He was known to buy caged birds at markets solely for the purpose of setting them free.
People sometimes ask me why I enjoy history so much. Rather than answer with a lecture, I prefer to turn things around and ask my own question — how can one not be fascinated by history and extraordinary people that lived before us, like Leonardo Da Vinci? This is a man to be celebrated.