The life long work of the great Italian Renaissance artist and scientist
Leonardo da Vinci has proved most fascinating for so many generations. What
impresses people most today is perhaps, the diversity and numbers of his
achievements. In the past, however, he was admired and most recognized for his
achievements in art, and art theory. Leonardo's equally impressive contribution to
science has only recently been rediscovered. Many of Leonardo s contributions has
been preserved in a vast quantity of notes that became widely known only recently.
Leonardo was born in 1452, near the town of Vinci, not far from Florence.
His artistic talent must have revealed itself early, for he was soon apprenticed to
Andrea Verrocchio, a leading Renaissance master. In this versatile Florentine
workshop Leonardo acquired a variety of skills. He entered the painters' guild in
1472, and his earliest works date from this time.
Leonardo left Florence for Milan in 1482 to begin working for Duke Sforza in
Milan. Although active painting portraits, as a court artist, designing festivals, and
projecting an equestrian monument in sculpture to the duke's father, Leonardo also
became fascinated in non-artistic matters during this period. He put his profound
growing knowledge of mechanics to his duties as a civil and military engineer; in
addition, he took up scientific fields as diverse as anatomy, biology, mathematics,
and physics. These activities, however, did not prevent him from completing his
single most important painting, The Last Supper. However, during this period,
Leonardo began many projects which would be left unfinished, or become
With the fall of Milan to the French (1499), Leonardo left the city to find a
home and job elsewhere. By 1500 he was back in Florence where he would begin
working for Cesare Borgia as a military engineer. Again in Florence in 1503,
Leonardo undertook several very significant and important artistic projects,
including the portrait of Mona Lisa. At the same time, his scientific interests
broadened: he began studying the flight pattern of birds, and his amazement with
the human body led him to perform dissections.
Asked to work for the new French government, Leonardo returned to Milan
in 1506. Leonardo would live here for the next seven years o his life. The artistic
project on which he focused at this time was mostly kept in the planning stages. In
Milan, Leonardo would keep a vast and accurate set of records and details in his
notebooks documenting the many advances and achievements of his studies.
Leonardo's experiments and observations into the workings of nature are all
well documented in his sketches and in his many notebooks. The mechanical objects
that he drew and described were also concerned with the transformation of energy.
Leonardo's many investigations took him from surface to structure, from catching
the exact appearance of things in nature, to visually analyzing how they function.
His paintings, drawings, and many documentations show that he was the
foremost creative mind of his time, and maybe ever. Leonardo's art and science are
not separate, as was once believed, but belong to the same lifelong pursuit of
knowledge and wisdom. Leonardo s contributions to science will not be forgotten,
and not be left unnoticed. He will continue to influence people though his
innovations and masterful works of art.