Many of us know that Leonardo Da Vinci was a brilliant artist with celebrated and poignant masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa, The Vitruvian Man and The Last Supper. These works have resonated within circles of art lovers for centuries, and their true meanings are debated in classrooms, cafes and art galleries all over the world. Aside from his masterful, artistic talent, Da Vinci also possessed an acute scientific mind that he put to good use by inventing and re-inventing dozens of contraptions. However, Leonardo Da Vinci inventions have been somewhat overlooked and one might be pleasantly surprised to discover some of the ideas that have sprung from this artist’s mind.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s fascination with machines began when he was merely a boy. His earliest sketches depict the inner workings of various machines from his era. Eventually, his creativity led to the outlines of flying machines, weapons and musical instruments. Leonardo first became enamored with the idea of flight in the 1480s. He designed what is called the ornithopter flying machine. Although the invention never came to fruition during his time, many believe that the helicopter was indeed inspired by Da Vinci. His creations may also have given rise to today’s hand glider and parachute.
Springs and Things
Da Vinci inventions were diverse. He is credited with creating one of the first primitive alarm clocks, a contraption based on the flow of water. A thin stream of water would drip from one container to another until the second container was full, at which time the legs of the sleeping Da Vinci would be lifted by a combination of pulleys and gears, hence rousing him awake.
Although never actually constructed, Da Vinci designed a crane capable of moving large boulders effortlessly and efficiently, most likely intended for gathering stones from a quarry.
Leonardo Da Vinci inventions encompass the ordinary as well as the fantastic. He has been credited with designing the first war tank. It had to be moved with cranks by the hands of men or could be pulled by horses. The one major flaw in Da Vinci's design was that the front and back wheels were made to turn in opposing directions. Rumors have it that this phenomenon may have been intentional as Da Vinci was believed to be an anti-war individual. He took the makings of slingshots, crossbows and other hand-held weapons and worked on improving their functionality. He fashioned a short-range catapult that, although not far-reaching, was easier and quicker to load than any gun of that time.
Committing many of his sketches to paper, it is rumored that Da Vinci had dozens of journals that depicted his fantastical ideas - most of which might have been viewed as foolhardy.
Besides being one of the most famous artists to ever walk the planet, Leonardo da Vinci was also a prolific inventor and engineer. Many of his inventions, depicted in drawings and journals found only after his death, were mainly theoretical in nature and never actually realized (with a few exceptions.)
A study of Leonardo da Vinci inventions indicates a mind that was literally centuries ahead of its time. Leonardo lived and worked in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, a time when technological progress and adherence to scientific and engineering principles such as leverage, pulleys, cranks, gears, parallel linkage, momentum, centripetal force and the aerofoil were unheard of. While many of his inventions would have been dysfunctional if built, his drawings inspired actual working copies of the flying machine, the machine gun, and various other outstanding contraptions that would not appear until the 19th century.
Leonardo da Vinci inventions had tremendous impact on engineering concepts, manufacturing approaches, and the war industry. He was contracted by Italian dignitary and nobleman Ludovico il Moro to create military equipment. He invented a machine that protected soldiers who were trying to charge a wall, a rudimentary tank that protected infantry, cannons that shot devastating projectiles, and a machine that could kill by rotating a series of scythes, similar to farming equipment.
Da Vinci made significant contributions to the field of civil engineering. Some of the most useful Leonardo da Vinci inventions were hydraulic machines that served various functions. The man’s advanced understanding of water flow and how its power could be used, led him to design the basic water wheel engine. His plans were meticulous in the construction of bridges, including portable bridges that were intended to enable armies to cross rivers.
Because Leonardo da Vinci was so far ahead of his time, many of his creations came a little too early in history to be viewed as practical by his contemporaries. For example, he was fascinated by the idea that technology could put man in flight. He designed an early hang-glider that could have functioned had it ever been constructed. Although he outlined the plans for the world’s first helicopter, the machine could not have flown as the propellers turned against the direction of the rotors. His aspirations led him to design the world’s first parachute. Legend has it that a hawk flew over his cradle when he was an infant, permanently affecting his vivid imagination, which would later concoct various concepts of aviation.
Leonard tried to invent a device that enabled men to walk on water, but his attempt was futile. He also created the world’s first key-and-bow musical instrument, which was never fully realized.
Undoubtedly, Leonardo da Vinci had a wild and restless mind that fostered literally hundreds of schematics for possible inventions. And although many of his ideas were considered far-fetched, and some of his creations never actualized, Leonardo da Vinci inventions had an enormous impact and served as inspiration for the inventors of the future and on Western technology. From da Vinci’s in-depth study of the mechanics of flight to his service as a one-man engineer contributing to the war efforts of the time, he is remembered as one of humankind’s greatest minds.