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The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci

Learn how art and Science come together with one man.


Art and science seem like totally different things when you first think about them. Art is creative, the expression of imagination. Science is the search for facts through repeatable, verifiable experiments. The truth is, the two are connected. One of the strongest connections is through Leonardo da Vinci.

So who was this guy? He was a lot of things – artist, inventor, mathematician, scientist, writer, and engineer. Da Vinci is best known for painting the Mona Lisa, that dark little painting of the woman with the quirky smile. But he did so much more.scientist

A shortlist of things he invented:

  • Helicopter
  • Parachute
  • Armored cars
  • Self-propelled cart
  • More accurate clocks
  • Double hulled ships
  • Scuba diving gear

Not all of these inventions worked as da Vinci imagined. His helicopter was a giant screw and too heavy to fly, but the idea was there. The armored car, as he drew it, wouldn’t have moved.

Some would have worked though! Engineers built the self-driving cart in 2009, and it worked! His parachute design was also tested, and it worked, too.

Leonardo da Vinci was also obsessed with anatomy, the science of body structure. He would dissect animals and sometimes humans to better understand how bodies worked. He’d then make detailed drawings of what he saw. These sketches and da Vinci’s notes were used by doctors to help treat people for years.

Those sketches are, at least for da Vinci, the crossroads of art and science. He used his artistic abilities to better show his science and engineering work. He also used his understanding of science to paint more lifelike art.

One of da Vinci’s best-known examples of art and science meeting is Vitruvian Man. The sketch is anatomically correct, meaning everything is like a real body. The man in the drawing fits both into a square and a circle. It's named Vitruvian after a Roman architect who wrote about the perfect proportions of the human body.

Drawing exercises like Vitruvian Man allowed da Vinci to paint such realistic art, like the Mona Lisa. Because he had a good understanding of how to draw the human body, Leonardo was able to make art that looked real. And in the case of Mona Lisa’s smile, almost impossible to do.

One way to describe someone good at almost anything is to call them a Renaissance man. Leonardo da Vinci is one of the people responsible for this term. He lived during the height of the Renaissance and was involved in a little bit of everything. Da Vinci was particularly good at almost everything he did. Not because it came naturally to him, but because he was so passionate about the work he did.

Today people often want to be known as being good at one thing. But the truth is, most people are really good at a lot of things. One might stand out, though. Da Vinci was better known for his art while he was alive. Only hundreds of years after his death did people really start to see how he changed science.

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