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Leonardo Da Vinci’s Inventions

 

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.

Leonardo da vinci inventions2

Leonardo da vinci inventions2

leonardo's ball bearing

leonardo’s ball bearing

 

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.
  • 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.
  • He sketched Scuba Diving gear which, when recently tested, was proven to work. (Jacques Cousteau invented modern scuba gear in 1943)
  • 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 first remotely operated vehicle.
  • He designed the first continuously variable transmission system. This gear system has STILL not been put into widespread use due its complexity.

He invented many other things too, in fact, more than i can mention on this one page. 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 and observation.

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.
  • While investigating the feasibilty of Perpetual Motion, he discovered Isaac Netwon’s Third Law of Motion – 200 years before Newton was born. Learn more on the Perpetual Motion page.
  • He hinted at an understanding of Plate Tectonics. After finding seasheels 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.
  • 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”

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 have simply been lost – maybe they have been destroyed by the ravages of time or 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 -

Inventions for War

Inventions for Flight

Mechanical Inventions