Genius on Exhibit

Sunday, March 27, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Vinci, Italy. 
Leonardo self-portrait
Thomas Edison once said, "I never did a day's work in my life; it was all fun." One of history's greatest creative minds, Edison saw the world in a different way than most of us. While the rest of us see what is, Edison was constantly envisioning what could be.

Today we visited the home town of another genius inventor. Though primarily known as an artist for his iconic works such as Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci applied his remarkable mind to many fields.  Unlike Edison, Leonardo never actually created most of the gadgets and machines he designed, but he filled many notebooks with sketches and descriptions of his concepts.  He even predicted 500 years ago that the world would someday be connected by communication devices.

"Let the mind go free and think of a thousand things," he is said to have counseled his apprentices.  Evidence abounds that he followed his own advice.  Housed in a medieval castle, Museo Leonardiano, the museum of Leonardo, dominates the small town of Vinci, some 20 miles west of Florence.  Leonardo was born in Vinci in the year 1452 to a notary father and peasant woman.  The museum was opened in 1953, just after the fifth centennial celebration of his birth.
Models of a revolving crane (L) and a pole-erecting machine (R)
Museo Leonardiano houses a collection of models based on the drawings of this creative mind.  Leonardo da Vinci obviously possessed an innate and complete mastery of the laws of physics.  His notebooks are replete with applications of these scientific principles to improve such fields as textiles, transportation, construction, engineering, artillery, architecture, geology, hydraulics, aerodynamics, light, and even deep-sea diving.
Model of an armored tank

Model of an emergency bridge

On display at the museum was a model of his design for a rapid-construction bridge for military use.  The structure was to be built with tree trunks bound together by ropes and crossed with planked decking. It is one of many military inventions conceived by this pacificist.  Others include tanks, cannons and devices for tunneling, breaching walls and demolishing buildings.
The museum's web site includes a terrific interactive section which illustrates the models on exhibits along with Leonardo's original drawings.  You can go floor by floor through the museum and see each object on display.
Here are a few fascinating facts about Leonardo we learned at the museum.
Leonardo was not a prolific artist.  Though some of his works are among the most recognized paintings in the world, he left fewer than 30 paintings (not all of which were completed).
Leonardo was a vegetarian, which was unusual in his day, especially because he became a vegan for humanitarian reasons.  He refused to even drink cow's milk because he felt he would be stealing from the cow.
Leonardo's illegitimacy kept him from other professions.  Had he not been born out of wedlock, Leonardo would probably have become a notary or lawyer like his father, rather than apprenticed to an artist at a young age.
Leonardo was a procrastinator and a perfectionist.  Can you imagine how much more he might have accomplished without these impediments?