Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci or Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, “at the third hour of the night” in the Tuscan hill town of Vinci, in the Republic of Florence. He was an Italian polymath, having been a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Leonardo had no surname in the modern sense, “da Vinci” simply meaning “of Vinci”: his full birth name was “Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci”, meaning “Leonardo, (son) of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci”. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice, spending his final years in France at the home given to him by King François I.
Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the “Renaissance man”, a man whose seemingly infinite curiosity was equaled only by his powers of invention. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.
It is primarily as a painter that Leonardo was and is renowned. Two of his works, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper occupy unique positions as the most famous; most reproduced and most parodied portrait and religious painting of all time, their fame approached only by Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Leonardo’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also iconic, being reproduced on items as varied as the euro coin, textbooks, and T-shirts.Perhaps fifteen of his paintings survive the small number due to his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination. Nevertheless, these few works together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, comprise a contribution to later generations of artists only rivaled by that of his contemporary, Michelangelo.
As an engineer, Leonardo’s ideas were vastly ahead of his time. He conceptualized a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, the double hull and outlined a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or were even feasible during his lifetime, but some of his smaller inventions, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded. As a scientist, he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics
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