North Star History Museum

Featuring: Renaissance Inventions

Exhibit on Inventors and Invention

Many people associate the Renaissance with art, but the Renaissance also brought about many new ideas and technologies. Some of the same Renaissance people that created beautiful paintings, such as Leonardo da Vinci, also developed many useful inventions. Come see the inventions of the Renaissance, from submarines to telescopes, at the North Star History Museum.

Printing Press

The printing press was invented around 1440 by a German goldsmith by the name of Johannes Gutenberg. Europeans had been printing with ancient methods from Asia, such as movable type and woodblock printing, until Gutenberg developed the first real printing press. To use a printing press, metal letters were lined up and ink was applied to the plate of letters. The plate was pressed onto paper and the ink was left on the pages. The printing press made printing faster and easier than ever before. Printing presses quickly spread throughout Europe, causing a spread of knowledge throughout the world.

Leonardo da Vinci 1452-1519

During the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci invented many new technologies, some of which were way ahead of his time. Da Vinci kept journals and made sketches and notes about his ideas. Some of his ideas include flying machines, such as the aerial screw and parachute, war machines, such as an armored vehicle and a giant crossbow, and others, such as scuba gear and a robotic knight. Many of da Vinci's inventions weren't actually built until centuries after his lifetime, showing how advanced his ideas were for his time.
Top 7 Leonardo da Vinci Inventions


A variety of new lenses were first created during the Renaissance. The lenses were used for microscopes and telescopes. The first microscope was invented as early as 1590 by either Hans Lippershey or Hans Janssen and his son Zacharias, all of whom were spectacle-makers from Middelburg, Netherlands. Hans Lippershey is credited with inventing a telescope for viewing distant objects in 1608.


Leonardo da Vinci was the first person to write down ideas for an underwater ship. Da Vinci didn't share his plans for a submarine, and they weren't complete plans. This was probably because da Vinci didn't actually want someone to create such a terrifying war machine. In 1578, William Bourne drew up plans for a submarine. It worked by changing the volume of the ship, thus changing its density and allowing it to sink or float. In 1620, Cornelius Drebbel became the first person to actually build a submarine. It was made of boards covered by watertight leather. Oarsmen powered the submarine by rowing oars protruding out from watertight holes.