Republication from The Conversation


The prototype design of Da Vinci’s “tank”


Leonardo da Vinci is generally recognised as one of the great figures of the Renaissance and one of the greatest ever polymaths. As the world marks the 500th anniversary of his death, it’s important to look at some of the ways in which he showed that – as well as being a painter, sculptor and engineer – he was a thinker who was way ahead of his time.

Engineering – Dr Hywel Jones

Leonardo da Vinci is renowned as much for his inventions as his works of art, studies of architecture and anatomical drawings. The documents that survive show us his ideas for a wide range of devices. They include some of the first concepts for gliders, helicopters, parachutes, diving suits, cranes, gearboxes and many types of weapons of war. Many of these may be seen in use today, having taken the best part of 400 years to become practical realities.

He combined an imagination ahead of his time, an understanding of the emerging principles of science and engineering, and his superlative draftsmanship to devise new uses for levers, gears, pulleys, bearings and springs. His creations were designed to be useful but also to be appealing to his patrons: the warring dukes and kings of late 15th- and early 16th-century France and Italy.

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