Leonardo was born in 1452 in Vinci, an isolated village in the Tuscany region of Italy. His father, ser Piero, was a public notary, as his father had been before him. His mother was a young peasant girl named Catarina. His parents separated after his birth. Leonardo was brought up in his father's house and soon began to display remarkable aptitudes. In 1470, ser Piero apprenticed him to the workshop of the painter Verrocchio. There is a story that when Leonardo was asked by Verrocchio to add an angel to the artist's depiction of the Baptism of Christ, Leonardo's angel was so beautiful that it stood out from the painting rather than merging with it.

Leonardo's first important works in his own right were made under the patronage of Duke Ludovic Sforza in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice and spent the final years of his life in France, at the invitation of King Francis I.

Leonardoda Vinci was a genius in many different artistic and scientific fields, as well as being a humanist philosopher, an observer of life and an experimenter-inventor whose like had never been seen before. He had 'a rare gift for the intuition of space' and an almost infinite curiosity, which was only equalled by the power of his invention. He was also one of the greatest painters of all time.


Initially, it was as an artist that Leonardo first achieved recognition. Two of his works - Mona Lisa and The Last Supper - are amongst the most famous paintings in the world and have both been copied or parodied on numerous occasions. Much the same is true of his famous drawing of the Vitruvian man. Many people consider him to be the artistic equal of Michelangelo. He died at Amboise in France on 2 May 1519.

As an universal genius who was curious about everything, Leonardo da Vinci devoted himself to exploring and broadening mankind's knowledge of the world. During his lifetime he conceived of numerous machines that were never actually made but only remained as designs. This includes the famous design of the first 'flying machine'. Leonardo impressed his contemporaries and later generations with his methodical approach to knowledge, as well as his ability to observe, learn and analyze it.

His approach to all his activities, whether artistic or scientific (in his mind there was no difference), was based on the preliminary accumulation of detailed observations, supplemented by knowledge that he had acquired from elsewhere. The end result tended to be superior to anything that had previously existed. He only ever had a single goal: perfection in all he did. It is true that a good number of Leonardo's sketches, notes and treatises cannot strictly speaking be regarded as original, but they were nonetheless the result of research carried out with an encyclopaedic care that had never before been seen.

Leonardo da Vinci was a man far ahead of his time. He imagined the aeroplane, the helicopter, the submarine and even the motor car. Very few of his projects were realized or were even possible to realize during his lifetime, but some of his smallest inventions - like a machine for measuring the elastic limit of a cable - were taken up and used by the manufacturing world. As a scientist, he increased existing knowledge in fields as diverse as anatomy, civil engineering, optics and hydrodynamics.


Leonardo filled his journals with small sketches and detailed designs, so that he could keep track of everything that attracted his attention. His notebooks contain a large number of inventions, including hydraulic pumps, hand-cranked mechanisms (such as a machine for cutting wood screws), fins for mortar shells, a steam cannon, various automatons, a submarine, an armoured car (tank), an automobile, floats for 'walking on water', a device for concentrating solar energy, a calculating machine, a diving suit and helmet, a double hull for boats and ball bearings.


However, many of his so-called 'inventions' had already been developed by his predecessors, such as the paddle boat (which had existed under the Song dynasty in China as early as the 5th century), the helicopter, the tracked (or caterpillar) vehicle, the power loom, the hydraulic saw, the submarine and the armoured car, all of which Leonardo perfected rather than discovered. Moreover, some of his inventions were plagued by serious difficulties: his helicopter spun out of control like a top, the diving helmet suffocated its users, his paddle steamer couldn't move forwards and his pyramid-shaped parachute folded in on itself. But some of his inventions did work and were highly useful, and he was unquestionably one of the first civil engineers of his age to be interested in the mechanical working of metals and in particular gold.


In 1502, Leonardo designed a 240-metre long bridge for the Ottoman sultan Bayezid II of Istanbul. This bridge was intended to span the Bosporus at the point known as the Golden Horn. Bayezid thought that the plan was impossible and so he never pursued the project. However, Leonardo's vision was successfully implemented in 2001, when a smaller bridge was built in accordance with his ideas in Norway.On 17 May 2006, the Turkish Government finally decided to construct Leonardo's bridge over the Golden Horn.



For a large part of his life, Leonardo was fascinated, like Icarus, by flight. He produced numerous studies about this phenomenon, taking his inspiration from the world of birds, as well as designing several 'flying machines', including a prototype helicopter (known as the ‘aerial screw’),a parachute and a kind of hang-glider in bamboo. Most of these designs were incapable of realization, but the hang-glider was built and flew with success.