Although Leonardo Da Vinci is most widely recognized for his skill as a painter, he’s also known for his incredible inventions. In many cases, he conceptualized machines and technologies that were fully realized only hundreds of years later. It’s amazing to think that in his lifetime, from 1452 to 1519, he was already picturing submarines, airplanes and hydraulic mechanisms.
In 1502, da Vinci designed a 240-metre bridge for the Sultan Beyazid II of Istanbul. The bridge was to cross the mouth of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait that separates Europe and Asia. However, the bridge was never to see the light of day because the Sultan believed the design to be impossible. The Sultan had no faith in the “single-span” design that da Vinci proposed.
On 17 May 2006, a full 504 years later, the Turkish government agreed to pursue the building of the originally proposed bridge to cross the mouth of the strait.
Pages out of da Vinci’s notebooks show that he had conceptualized many forms of flying contraptions, some of which would have been very close to fully operational if they had been built. These include early forms of hang gliders and parachutes, and even a prototypical helicopter. This quote of Da Vinci shows his incredible insight into the dynamics of flight:
“An object offers as much resistance to the air as the air does to the object. You may see that the beating of its wings against the air supports a heavy eagle in the highest and rarest atmosphere…a man with wings large enough and duly connected might learn to overcome the resistance of the air, and by conquering it, succeed in subjugating it and rising above it.”
It was during studies for his artwork that da Vinci first became interested in the force and movement of water. Among the plans he devised in his native Florence was one to divert the course of the Arno River in order to flood the town of Pisa. Lucky for Pisa, this was too costly to be executed.
Tools of War
Also among the treasure trove of ideas in Da Vinci’s notebooks are plans for various war machines. Da Vinci designed a tank that would be propelled forward by means of two men operating a crankshaft. He also designed cannons, which he claimed could “hurl small stones like a storm with the smoke of these causing great terror to the enemy”. Nevertheless, da VinciHe was clearly a man with a mind for battle, but luckily was more of a pacifist. This shows in his description of his ability to build a machine that sounds much like a submarine:
“I do not describe my method of remaining under water… by reason of the evil nature of men who would use them as means of… sending ships to the bottom, and sinking them together with the men in them.”
Many of the machines that da Vinci designed have now been built, thanks to technological progress and to fanatics and history buffs who’ve revisited his plans and drawings. The Golden Horn bridge is one example, as is the hang glider type machine you see above, which was based on da Vinci’s studies of the wings of a bat. Da Vinci also dabbled in the invention of musical instruments, one of which is the main influence in the construction of a unique, crank-powered organ.
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leonardo_machines.JPG
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leonardo_Design_for_a_Flying_Machine,_c._1488.jpg
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b9/Leonardo_tank.JPG
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leonardo_flying_machine.JPG
Article courtesy of Jeff from www.hvdh-sa.co.za – an engineering company which designs custom industrial machines and tools for manufacturers.