Biography of Leonardo da Vinci

da Vinci self portraitLeonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance Man, a man of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination".

He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. While there is much speculation about Leonardo, his vision of the world is essentially logical rather than mysterious, and that the empirical methods he employed were unusual for his time.

His Last Supper (1495–98) and Mona Lisa (c. 1503–06) are among the most widely popular and influential paintings of the Renaissance. An artist by disposition and endowment, he considered his eyes to be his main avenue to knowledge. To Leonardo, sight was man's highest sense because it alone conveyed the facts of experience immediately, correctly, and with certainty. Hence, every phenomenon perceived became an object of knowledge, and saper vedere (“knowing how to see”) became the great theme of his studies. He applied his creativity to every realm in which graphic representation is used.

Leonardo was far more than a great artist: he had one of the best scientific minds of his time. His notebooks reveal a spirit of scientific inquiry and a mechanical inventiveness that were centuries ahead of their time. He made painstaking observations and carried out research in fields ranging from architecture and civil engineering to astronomy to anatomy and zoology to geography, geology and paleontology. As evidence by his copious notes and related drawings, he conceptualized a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, the double hull and outlined a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics.

Leonardo's scientific and technical observations are found in his handwritten manuscripts, of which over 4000 pages survive. It seems that Leonardo planned to publish them as a great encyclopedia of knowledge, but like many of his projects, this one was never finished. The manuscripts are difficult to read: not only did Leonardo write in mirror-image script from right to left, but he used peculiar spellings and abbreviations, and his notes are not arranged in any logical order. The reason Leonardo used mirror-image cursive may have been more a practical expediency than for reasons of secrecy as is often suggested. Since Leonardo wrote with his left hand, it is probable that it was easier for him to write from right to left.

“One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.” ― Leonardo da Vinci