The Inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci

Revolutionizing the Renaissance

Leonardo da Vinci- a true man of the Renaissance. Painter, mathematician, biologist. He was known as all of this during his lifetime, and ever since. However, more recently, people have taken a much greater interest in his skill as an inventor. From his flying machines to his underwater machines to his war machines, da Vinci's work was unmatched in his time and for hundreds of years after.


The Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci will be displayed in the Ginevra de Benci Museum of Art and Science from April 9th to June 16th 2015. Purchase tickets online at ginevramuseum.org or call us at (507) 415-1452

Lens-Grinding Machine

Leonardo da Vinci Inventions - Mirror grinding/polishing machine
Da Vinci is believed to have invented this machine around the year 1500. It was used to create lenses or curved mirrors. A hand crank rotated a circular grinding stone and a gear. The gear rotated two gears on an axle, which in turn rotated a table with a piece of glass on it. The grinding stone carved it into a concave shape, the depth of which could be adjusted by adjusting the height of the table. The machine's significance lies in the use of the lenses. He used them to study the behavior of light reflection, but there may have also been a much greater purpose. It is theorized that Leonardo was planning on creating a telescope, which he needed lenses for. Telescopes would not be introduced for another 100 years, showing just how far ahead of his time da Vinci was.

War Tank or Armored Car

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This invention, while it is unknown if da Vinci ever built it, is a perfect example of how far ahead of his time Leonardo was. Modern tanks wouldn't be seen until the 1900's, four hundred years after da Vinci devised his armored vehicle. However, it wasn't flawless. Two men would crank levers to move it, but it would have taken extreme effort to move it just a small distance. Additionally, in his plans there is a gear that would cause the tank to only rotate instead of moving forwards. However, many people believe that he made it incorrect on purpose, to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands and being used for evil intentions.

Diving Suit

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A citizen of Venice, da Vinci realized that the city's famous canals could be used to their advantage. He devised a suit that could be used to go underwater and sabotage enemy ships undetected. The suit was made of leather, with glass eyepieces. Cork was attached to an air tube connected to the mask. The cork allowed the air tube to float to the surface, allowing the wearer to breathe. There was also a balloon, similar to a fish's swim bladder, that could be inflated or deflated, allowing the diver to sink or float. Finally, there was a pouch attached for the wearer to urinate into, allowing the diver to stay underwater for long periods of time. This is one of the earliest examples of diving suits, with the next major advancement in diving not arriving until the early 1700's.

Ornithopter

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Leonardo had been interested in flight for much of his life. When he was a baby, a hawk apparently landed on the edge of his cradle. He later saw this as a prophecy, inspiring his ornithopter. It had wings that flapped the same as birds, although this idea never really... took off. Nobody really knows if he ever built his ornithopter, but the journal of one of his assistants claimed that they had tried to fly it, but that it hadn't worked. Da Vinci did, however create sketches for a hang glider and a parachute that would work, making him the first pioneer into gliding flight. As with his tank, flight wouldn't be around for four hundred years with the Wright brother's plane.