Leonardo Da Vinci’s Inventions
“Principles for the development of a complete mind –
Study the Art of Science, study the Science of Art. Develop your senses, especially learn how to see, realize that everything connects to everything else”
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions are not very well known by the general public, hopefully that will change with this website. While he is very well known as being one of the greatest painters of all time, (he’s generally found to be in the top 3 and often number 1), his inventiveness has been largely forgotten. He has received virtually no recognition for many inventions that other people have subsequently been accredited for.
For example, below are two drawings, one showing Leonardo’s original drawing for the Ball Bearing which he drew around the year 1500, and the other showing my 3d rendering of his design overlayed above his drawing. This one invention ALONE
essentially allows our modern civilisation to function. Ball bearings can be found in your PC, Laptop,Cars,Airplanes, Electricity Generators, Bicycles and many many more besides. Without this invention the machines of industry would grind to a halt, the global electricity system would turn off and the water would stop flowing into our homes. He designed the ball bearing to be incorporated into his design for the helicopter – it would make rotating the large screw on top much easier by reducing the friction by several orders of magnitude. According to searches on the internet, Philip Vaughan invented the ball bearing in the year 1794 – 294 years after Leonardo’s design.
He invented things that were so far ahead of their time, that they would not be reinvented for up to 400 and sometimes almost 500 years later –
- He had rudimentary designs for a Tank in the late 1400s – nothing similar would be seen again until the battlefields of World War 1 in the early 1900s. Even these designs were inferior to Leonardo’s in some respects, you can learn more on the Tank page. Models of almost all of his inventions are available here – Leonardo da Vinci Model Kits.
- His drawing for the Helicopter is said to have inspired Igor Sigorsky to invent the modern Helicopter and is also said to have inspired the invention of the screw propellor found on almost all boats. Learn more on the Helicopter page.
- He invented the ball bearing, roller bearing and needle bearing, 3 miniature machines upon which our modern society operates. Learn more about this on the ball bearing page.
- He drew the first exploded view of a machine – this is crucial to modern engineering practices as it would be almost impossible to visualize a modern machine without this visual aid. The image shown below is that first exploded view, as you can see he has drawn a deconstructed view of the machine, this is one of the most important moments in mechanical drafting practices.
- He sketched Scuba Diving gear which, when recently tested, was proven to work. (Jacques Cousteau invented modern scuba gear in 1943). The image below shows a mock up created from his drawings.
- He developed autonomous robots for his wealthy patrons. One such machine could be classed as the first mechanically powered vehicle as well as being the programmable machine in history – it could be made go a certain distance forward, stop, turn left and go for a certain distance, then stop, then turn again etc etc.
- He designed the first continuously variable transmission system. This gear system has STILL not been put into widespread use due its complexity. A bicycle company has recently incorporated his design into their machines, their aim is to replace the current gear and chain system found on 99% of all bicycles, the company’s name is – NuVinci Bicycles. One of their internally geared rear hubs can be seen here – NuVinci Rear Bicycle Hub.
- Another company that has taken notice of his accomplishments is XYZ Printing, they have named their newest 3D Printer/Laser Scanner/Laser engraver after him. Could you just imagine what he could have done with such a machine?
On this website my aim is to highlight Leonardo da Vinci’s Inventions and put him up on another pedestal he deserves – to be ranked among the Greatest Inventors & Scientists of all time, a title which he rightly deserves for a lifetime of obsessive study, work,observation and ultimately.one of the greatest compendiums of knowledge to have been created by a single human mind.
Unfortunately there is a sad twist to this tale – Leonardo da Vinci had always planned to compile a large book containing all of his notes, observations and inventions. However, he died before this was completed. When he died in France in 1519 he left his notes to his student Francesco Melzi.
Melzi looked after the notes for quite a while but soon found he could make some handsome money by selling the old masters notes and notebooks – Leonardo was very famous even during his own lifetime, this decision to sell his notes would have dire consequences for Leonardo’s legacy and human civilization as a whole.
On those notebooks were anatomical discoveries that could have saved millions of lives as well as ideas and concepts that would have leapfrogged humanity well into the future –
- Leonardo discovered arteriosclerosis (plaque deposits on the walls of veins in the human body). This would be rediscovered in the middle of the 20th century – almost 400 years later.
- He created the first full anatomical drawing of the human body, from the vascular system to the muscular system and the nervous system. Although some of the conclusions he came to were wrong about the human body, his mastery of artwork meant that his drawings would remain to be the most accurate anatomical drawings for well over 200 years. Look at the detail in the two images below, one of the skeletal structure and the other of the muscular system.
- While investigating the feasibility of Perpetual Motion, he discovered Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion – 200 years before Newton was born, i think we should rename it – Leonardo’s First Law of Motion :). Learn more on the Perpetual Motion page.
- He hinted at an understanding of Plate Tectonics and the great age of the Earth. After finding seashells high above sea level on a mountainside he wrote – “And from time to time the bottom of the sea was raised, depositing these shells in layers, as may be seen in the cutting at Colle Gonzoli” – Plate Tectonics would be accepted as a valid scientific theory in the middle of the twentieth century, again almost 500 years later. He also made these three statements, any one of which could have gotten him a life sentence in a dungeon (something which is fellow scientist Copernicus found out the hard way by claiming that the Earth went around the Sun) -1) Shells that appear on mountain tops and fish bones in caves must be the remains of animals that long ago swam in these places when they were covered in sea. The claim they were swept there by the biblical flood is a completely inadequate explanation. So the surface of the earth has changed over time, with land where once there was sea.2) The most powerful natural force is the movement of water in rivers. Water has sculpted the very largest features of the landscape, a process that must have taken a very long time.3) Therefore slow and relentless natural processes, not the divine instantaneous act described in Genesis, have shaped our planet.
- Charles Darwin is generally accredited to having discovered the theory of evolution, however, due to his vast understanding of human and animal anatomy, Leonardo da Vinci did not think that this was even required to debate, 350 years before Charles Darwin, he simply wrote – “Man. The description of man, which includes that of such creatures as are almost of the same species, as Apes, Monkeys and the like, which are many” Below, i have added two of Leonardo’s images together to show them side by side, one is a Human foot, the other is a Bears’ foot. Do you think the similarities between these two feet would have escaped Leonardo’s razor sharp reasoning abilities? I think not! It most definitely would have begun his mind racing.
I must also mention, that these are notes that we KNOW about. It is estimated that up to half of his notes were sold by his student and many have simply been lost – maybe they have been destroyed by the ravages of time or they are lying in an attic in Europe somewhere. What else could have been on these missing notes?
Maybe a rough design for a steam engine? A more thorough explanation of evolution? Other anatomical and medicinal discoveries that could have saved millions of lives? We may never know.
You can browse though Leonardo’s Inventions and Ideas through the following links or by simply using the top navigation bar –