Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, the world’s most famous and most valuable painting, but he was also a scientist, mathematician, engineer, and inventor. In all these areas, Leonardo da Vinci was far ahead of his time.
Take the Mona Lisa, for example. It’s a portrait of a woman, hands folded in her lap, with a faint, mysterious smile. Her identity was unknown for 500 years, and even now experts are still not sure who she was.
Art critics continue to examine her smile to figure out how da Vinci made it so puzzling.
The Mona Lisa was one of the first portraits to show a person against an imaginary background. And da Vinci was one of the first painters to use atmospheric perspective.
That’s the effect the atmosphere has on the appearance of a distant object — you can see his use of it in the Mona Lisa, too.
One reason da Vinci was such an amazing artist was that he spent a lot of time observing things. This also made him a good inventor.
He watched birds and designed an early flying machine based on their flight. He also invented a parachute — just in case.
Although da Vinci hated war, he needed money, and people paid him for ideas to help them fight their enemies. He invented a diving suit (to wear when cutting holes in an enemy’s boat), a tank, a machine-gun-like weapon and a fighting robot.
Da Vinci’s other inventions included ball bearings, which today are an essential part of many modern machines.
Da Vinci left 13 000 pages of notes (written from right to left, probably because it was easier for this left-handed inventor) and drawings when he died.
Not all of the inventions he dreamed up were practical or buildable during his lifetime.
But when modern scientists have studied them, they’ve realized that many would actually work!