Da Vinci was dedicated to discovery of truth and the mysteries of nature, and his contributions to science and technology were legendary. As the classic Renaissance man, Leonardo helped set a curious and superstitious world on the means of reason, science, learning, and tolerance. In his time, he was an internationally famous inventor, scientist, engineer, architect, painter, sculptor, musician, mathematician, anatomist, astronomer, geologist, biologist, and philosopher.
In an era when left-handedness was considered the devil's work and lefties were often forced to use their right hand, Leonardo actually used his left hand. People say that this difference was an element of his genius, since his mind allowed him to see beyond the ordinary. He even wrote backwards, and his writings are easily deciphered only with a mirror. Between 1490 and 1495 he developed his habit of recording his studies in illustrated notebooks. His work covered four main themes: painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and human anatomy. All one hundred twenty of his notebooks were written backwards. Today, Bill Gates is known to have bought one of his notebooks for thirty million dollars.
Born in 1452, as an illegitimate son of Ser Piero Da Vinci, Leonardo was sent to Florence in his teens to apprentice as a painter under Andrea del Verrocchio. He quickly developed his own artistic style which was unique and contrary to tradition. He even went so far as to make his own special formula of paint. Leonardo went beyond his teachings by making a scientific study of light and shadow in nature. The thought that objects were not comprised of outlines, but were actually three-dimensional bodies defined by light and shadow. Known as chiaroscuro, this technique gave his paintings the soft, lifelike quality that made older paintings look cartoony and flat. He also saw that an object's detail and color changed as it went father and closer in the distance. This technique was called sfumato.
His study of nature and anatomy emerged in his realistic paintings, and his dissections of the human body made him famous for remarkably accurate figures. He was the first artist to study the physical proportions of men, women and children and to use these studies to determine the "ideal" human figure. Leonardo was also a vegetarian and followed strict dietary rules. He loved animals so much that he often bought caged animals at the market just to set them free.
Later Da Vinci became the court artist for the duke of Milan. Throughout his life he also served various other roles, including civil engineer and architect (designing mechanical structures such as bridges and aqueducts), and military planner and weapons designer (designing tanks, catapults, machine guns, and naval weapons) Leonardo hated war, he called it "beastly madness" ,but since Renaissance Italy was constantly at war he couldn't avoid it. He designed numerous weapons, including missiles, multi-barreled machine guns, grenades, mortars, and even a modern-style tank. He drew the line, however, with his plans for an underwater breathing device, which he refused to reveal, saying that men would likely use it for "evil in war".
Leonardo da Vinci had many innovative designs, scientific accomplishments, and artistic masterpieces. Some of his innovative designs include: flying machines, parachutes, submarines, underwater breathing devices, self floatation/ocean rescue devices, swimming fins, pumping mechanisms, water turbines, dredging systems, steam calorimeters, water-well drill, swing bridges, canals, leveling/surveying instruments, cranes, pulley systems, street-lighting systems, convection roasting spit, mechanical saw, treadle-operated lathe, compasses, contact lenses, and military weapons. Some of his famous scientific accomplishments include: proposing the earth rotates around the sun, proposing that the moon's light is reflected sunlight, correctly explaining why sea shells are sometimes found miles inland on mountain tops, and creating the first textbook of human anatomy. And finally some of his great artistic masterpieces include: The Baptism of Christ, The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and The Adoration of the Three Kings.
Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 at the age of sixty seven. Legend has it that King Francis was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo's head in his arms. Da Vinci's creative, analytic, and visionary inventiveness has yet to be matched. Leonardo's work made a lot of reason and it expressed the capabilities of the individual human mind. Leonardo da Vinci is the perfect example of a renaissance man.