The Greatest Genius to Have Walked on Earth

In my mind that genius is unquestionably Leonardo da Vinci. I can think of no ne else who was so creative and his genius was manifest in art, science and engineering. So when I ran across a book titled How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci in the National Gallery of Art, I had to purchase it. The book is by a Da Vinci scholar, Michael J. Gelb. Self Help books were unknown in Da Vinci’s time, so Gelb took the task upon himself, and he did a splendid job.

There is no way I can do justice to Da Vinci’s contribution in this post, so what I am offering is only a sample. In the realm of art his Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are recognized as two of the greatest paintings ever produced. Other famous painting include The Virgin of the Rocks, The Madonna and Child with St. Anne, The Adoration of the Magi, and St. John the Baptist. His portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci hangs in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

As an inventor he made plans for a flying machine, a helicopter, a parachute, an extendable ladder (still used today by fire departments), a machine for cutting threads on screws, the bicycle, an adjustable monkey wrench, a snorkel, the three-speed gear shift, . hydraulic jacks, the world’s first revolving stage, locks for a canal system, a horizontal waterwheel, folding furniture, an olive press, a number of automated musical instruments (Leonardo himself was a musician), a water-powered alarm clock, a therapeutic armchair, and a crane for clearing ditches.

Da Vinci pioneered the concept of automation. He designed many machines to save labor and increase productivity. His automated looms were portents for the Industrial Revolution.

Da Vinci was way ahead of his time as a military engineer. He made plans for the armored tank, machine guns, mortars, guided missiles, and submarines. As far as it is known, nothing he designed was ever used to injure anyone during his lifetime. He was a man of peace who found bloodshed “infinitely atrocious.” He wrote that he designed his instruments of war “to preserve the chief gift of nature, which is liberty.”

Next come his accomplishments as a scientist.

Anatomy

  • He pioneered the discipline of modern comparative anatomy.

  • He was the first to draw parts of the body in cross section.

  • He drew the most detailed and comprehensive representations of humans and horses.

  • He conducted unprecedented scientific studies of the child in the womb.

  • He was the first to make casts of the brain and the ventricles of the heart.

Botany

  • He pioneered modern botanical science.

  • He described geotropism (the gravitational attraction of the earth on some plants) ane heliotropism (the attraction of plants toward the sun).

  • He noted that the age of a tree corresponds to the number of rings in its cross section

  • He was the first to describe the system of leaf arrangements in plants.

Geology and Physics

  • He made significant discoveries about the nature of fossilization, and he was the first to document the phenomenon of soil erosion

  • His physics studies anticipated the modern disciplines of hydrostatics, optics, and mechanics.

The book is subtitled Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. However, How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci is an enjoyable and highly readable biography of, in my view, the greatest genius to have walked on earth

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