St. Peter Museum of History

Featuring: The Many Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci


The Saint Peter Museum of History is now showing exhibits on the many inventions of Leonardo da Vinci. When people think of da Vinci, they usually only remember the artistic portion of his life. What very few know about him is that he was a genius that lived way ahead of his time. While others were going about daily life during the 15th and 16th centuries, da Vinci was drawing elaborate designs and models of modern day objects like parachutes, airplanes, and even tanks!

This exhibit will take you back to da Vinci's lifetime and walk you through some of his famous inventions.

Leonardo da Vinci

Early Life & Background

Leonardo was born on April 15th, 1452. He was raised by his father, and at the age of 14 became an apprentice of an artist. He studied for six years, learning about the many different aspects of art, until he qualified as a master and set up his own shop at the age of 20. After many years of painting and studying, he began to develop new interests in science and new technologies, which led to him creating inventions. It was between the years 1485 and 1490 that he made most of these inventions.


Armored Tank

One of the most famous war machines da Vinci made, the armored tank was capable of moving in any direction and was intended to intimidate an opposing army. It could move 360 degrees on its circular base and was able to hold canons and small weapons inside it that could shoot. It was controlled by eight men inside it who would have to turn large cranks and wheels to keep it moving. The armor on the outside was slanted to deflect enemy fire easier.

It is possible that a turtle's shell inspired Leonardo into making this particular invention, although nobody knows for sure.

"Machine Gun"

Although it was not exactly like what we picture a machine gun today, it was the earliest form of weapon that could rapid fire. The weapon was made to fan out, so that it could stop a number of advancing enemies with one shot. It was more like a twelve barreled canon than an actual gun since it was large and on wheels. It had multiple tiers that were rotated after being fired to provide cool down time and more efficient usage.


Leonardo drew early models of the parachute, but not one that we would be very familiar with today. His parachute was about 20 feet long on every side and weighed about 200 pounds. The parachute was made of thick canvas and rigid wooden poles. He wrote in his journal that anyone could jump from any height without injury with his parachute.

The video below shows a test of this parachute and shows a bit about how it would have been made.

Leonardo da Vinci First Parachute

Ornithopter (Flying Machine)

One of Leonardo's most impressive inventions was the ornithopter. Since he was so enthralled with flight and birds, it isn't a big surprise that he tried to create a machine that was capable of flight. The ornithopter was designed in the same way an airplane works, only it is much more bird like. Although it is unlikely the design would have been able to lift off from manpower alone, if it became airborne it may have been able to fly.