Geniuses come few and far between in history. Hippocrates came in the late BC period. Einstein came in the late 1800s-early 1900s. Leonardo came in between the two of them, but is not recognized as well as they are. He was a brilliant human being. He was a master in the fields of painting, designing, engineering, and science. Most people know him merely as an artist, and some know him as an inventor, but not too many people know him for what he really was. This is because his life and his accomplishments are not taught, as in depth as they should be.
During the height of the renascence, a genius was born in 1452 in the small town of Vinci, near Florence. He would become a great artist, engineer, inventor, and a scientist. His name was Leonardo, a name that would soon be associated with the word brilliant. He was born to Piero, the lawyer of the town, and Catarina, who gave Leonardo to his father, and left them both for a man of her social class. She is not mentioned in Leonardo’s notebooks, as he was probably too young to remember her.
Leonardo grew up feeling different from the other children. He had a strange curiosity that was lacking in the other children. He would buy birds from the markets, and set them free, because he thought it was wrong to keep them locked up in cages. He also had a strange curiosity about the world around him. He kept collections of “snakeskins, odd stones polished by water, birds’ eggs, the skeletons of small animals, insects stuck on pins, tadpoles, and strange plants,” in his room because they fascinated him. Leonardo would draw the things in his collection in a notebook. When his father saw the notebook, he thought that there was a possibility that Leonardo had a chance to become an artist.
Piero went into Florence once a month on business and one time he brought some of his son’s work. He showed it to his friend Andrea del Verrocchio. “He saw more than just mere talent in Leonardo” and almost immediately, Leonardo moved to Florence as Verrocchio apprentice.
Leonardo never got married. From what is known, he did not have any children, either. I find this tragic,
for if he had any children, they may have possibly continued in Leonardo’s footsteps, and become great geniuses as well.
Leonardo was so talented that after Leonardo painted two angels in the corner of Verrocchio’s Baptism of Christ, Verrocchio never painted again. Soon after that Leonardo went on to paint the Annunciation, which was his first of only a few completed paintings. When Leonardo painted he generally experimented with new techniques, and paints, so once he finished perfecting the experiment he went on to another work.
Leonardo’s paintings are truly masterful. He made two copies of one of his first paintings, The Virgin on the Rocks. The first one he painted in Florence. The second one he painted for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception. He was commissioned to paint for them. He felt he was not being paid enough to create a new painting. Therefore, rather than refusing to paint, or raising the price, Leonardo, smart as he was, suggested that he copy of The Virgin on the Rocks for them. Although the paintings are relatively the same, there are noticeable differences in the details of the two of them.
Leonardo’s version of The Last Supper is truly the best version ever created. “Artists before Leonardo had tried to recreate this dramatic moment in Christ’s life, but no one had succeeded with such nobility and force.” Leonardo depicted all the apostles with such personality and grace that all of their emotions and feelings were masterfully revealed. The betrayal is shown beautifully as well. Truly, no one has ever come close to surpassing the true genius of DaVinci’s depiction of the Last Supper.
Another great painting by Leonardo DaVinci is the Mona Lisa. This is his most famous painting. Mona Lisa was the daughter of a Florentine merchant. She is sitting with her hands folded, with a particular grin, which is seen in many of Leonardo’s paintings.
Leonardo’s inventions were way ahead of his time. He created plans for tanks, helicopters, submarines, and many other weapons of war and machinery. He also experimented with flying, and although now one really knows for sure, many people believe that he was unsuccessful at this. For every recreation of his experiment has used materials that Leonardo didn’t have in his time period. However, his plan for the submarine did work when it was recreated using the recently developed materials. His plans for mutlibarrelled guns, tanks, cannons, and many other weapons were created successfully by him.
Another one of Leonardo’s inventions was central heating, which he installed in a castle. He designed many different types of bridges, and scientific instrument, which most certainly changed the worlds of travel and especially science.
He was a brilliant scientist. He studied the fields of anatomy, and botany. He made many findings, and broke a lot of new ground in both of these fields.
He studied the bodies of thirty corpses, to unlock the secrets of man. He studied the muscles, organs, and tissues, to learn all that he could. He examined faces in depth, as well as the brain cavity, and bones of the skull. He was searching for what he called the “ ‘vital force,’ the soul, which gave life to the body”. He found out by studying frogs that if the spinal cord is pierced we die instantly. He realized that the heart was the center of all life, and that each beat sent a wave of blood throughout the body.
He drew many botanical drawings in the interests of studying the plants. He created many of the backgrounds in his paintings from these drawings, but not before using them to study plantlife.
He solved many engineering problems. He planned for an olden day freeway, to cut down on traffic. He engineered many brutal warships, for ramming and slicing into other ships. He engineered the first air conditioner for the d’Este family. He engineered the first tanks, which were very successful in battle. He engineered a double spiral staircase in towers so that in time of war soldiers could be moving up and down at the same time.
During his lifetime, Leonardo lived in six different cities, making seven big moves. He was born in Vinci, and from there, he went to Florence. After Florence, he moved to Milan, then Venice, then to Rome, back to Florence, and back to Rome. Finally, he moved to France, which is where he died in 1519.
In his lifetime, Leonardo accomplished more in terms of progress than anyone else in history. He had a gigantic effect on life in those days, as he still does today. His great success and artistic excellence has inspired many young men to start painting, and many others to give it up.
He pushed the progress of man further and faster than anyone else did during the renascence. Many things that he designed were later created and improved by nineteenth and twentieth century inventors. He painted many paintings that even now puzzle, inspire, and intrigue many young painters and historians around the world.
I believe that although Leonardo DaVinci is one of the most famous people in the history of mankind. He is not recognized for what he really was. A very small percentage of the people in the world know that he did a lot more than just paint. An even smaller percentage knows that he invented many of the items that led to modern technology, like central heating, and air conditioning. I believe that all of the American schools should have a class on the accomplishments of Leonardo DaVinci. Truly he is a misunderstood genius, and One that has remained unknown for his true accomplishments.
A.R. Turner. Inventing Leonardo. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.
David and Emily Kales. Masters of Art, New York: Grossest and Dunlap, 1967.
Elizabeth Hubbard Lansing. Leonardo: Master of the Renascence, New York: Thomas and Crowell
Frederick Hartt. History of The Italian Renascence, New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., (no date given).
Harald Keller. The Renascence in Italy, New York: Harry N Abrams Inc., 1969.
Jay Williams. Leonardo Da Vinci, New York: Harper & Row, 1965.
Maurice Rowdon. Leonardo Da Vinci, Chicago: Follett Publishing, 1975.
Richard Friedenthal. Leonardo Da Vinci: A pictorial biography, New York: Viking Press, 1959.