Leonardo da Vinci’s Crossbow
Leonardo da Vinci’s Crossbow definitely ranks among one of his most scary inventions. Can you imagine seeing this beast aiming for you from several hundred meters away?
The crossbow is also referred to as his Ballista. The machine was coiled or cocked by means of a worm gear (which he also designed), this enabled a huge mechanical advantage and allowed two men to fully draw back the huge bows of the crossbow.
Once cocked the machine could be fired be either hitting a release catch with a hammer or pulling on the catch with a rope, both mechanisms were designed by Leonardo for the firing of the crossbow. I would imagine the rope would have been preferred by anyone that may have operated such a huge weapon :). Both of the release mechanisms can be seen to the left of the crossbow design above.
Construction of the Crossbow
The bow was to be made of several interlocking sheets of wood in a kind of fore runner of lamination, this would allow for flexibility during the cocking of the bow and also increase the spring during its release. It could be loaded with many different types of artillery as it seems to have a kind of cradle, in which almost anything imaginable could be used, possible even the cluster bombs that Leonardo also invented.
Recreation of Leonardo’s Crossbow
Leonardo’s Crossbow was recreated based on his original drawings by a team of engineers. The only modification the team had to make was to create a second bow as the first one snapped under the immense strain as the bow was ratcheted up to full tension.
In modern times machines like this have been made obsolete with the improvements in artillery, some of which can go up into space and land on another continent thousands of miles away.