When you hear the name Leonardo da Vinci, what comes to mind? Maybe his paintings, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Maybe it’s his Flying Machine invention. Or maybe it is the depiction of the Vitruvian Man that he sketched in his notebook. When I think of this great man, I think of the term “Renaissance Man.” Why you ask? Let me tell you.
The term “Renaissance man” comes from fifteenth-century Italy and refers to the idea of a person with knowledge and skills in a number of different areas. Perhaps, no single individual defines the idea of a Renaissance man better than Leonardo da Vinci – an artist, scientist, architect, engineer and inventor.
Leonardo da Vinci will most likely go down in history for his famous works as an artist. But, did you know that he spent a significant amount of time working on his endeavors in science and technology? Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most prolific inventors in history. He spent hours and hours concocting inventions and innovations across a variety of fields including flight, warfare and public water systems.
Some of his most renown inventions are the flying machine, the parachute and the revolving bridge. Leonardo has also been given credit by historians for many more inventions. Here is a list of three not-so-known inventions of Leonardo da Vinci.
- The Anemometer: The anemometer is an instrument used to the speed of wind. Leonardo was very passionate about flight (the main reason we opened an exhibit about flight) and spent years developing his theories on how man could take to the skies. Leonardo did not actually invent this device, his variations drastically improved the effectiveness of this tool. He said “For measuring distance traversed per hour with the force of the wind. Here a clock for showing time is required.”
- The Armoured Car: Leonardo da Vinci was mildly obsessed with warfare, probably due to the time he lived. The armoured car was the predecessor to the modern tank. It was loaded with multiple weapons mounted to the car and could travel in any direction. The motion of the car had to generated by at least six men inside the car. The car had a number of light cannons set up in a circular pattern for maximum protection. There was one major flaw with this invention. The powering cranks went in opposite direction which made moving forward impossible. Why didn’t he fix this you ask? He was humanist and hated the idea of hurting his fellow human beings.
- Giant Crossbow: I know I just mentioned that Leonardo was a humanist. But his mild obsession with warfare continually crept into his numerous inventions. The giant crossbow is truly something that belongs in Hollywood. He understood better than most the psychological effects that weapons of war could have on the enemy. Instilling fear was the main object in this invention. The giant crossbow was designed for pure intimidation. It measures 27 yards across and has six wheels to make it mobile. The actual bow would be made of a very thin wood as to achieve maximum flexibility. This giant crossbow did not only fling arrows, again instilling fear was the point, it would fling large stones.
It didn’t really matter to Leonardo da Vinci if it was inventing flying machines, working tools, water works or even weapons of destruction, dreaming up things that would help and change society was his goal. After the research I’ve done, inventing these items was not for himself, rather it was for his fellowman.