Today was another incredible day in Milan, which included visiting the Leonardo Da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology. I found this entire visit to be fascinating, not only the great works of Leonardo himself.
Leonardo is known globally for his contributions in both art and engineering. He is unlike many of the world’s contributors at the time because he was versatile, creative, and practical. While he labeled himself as an engineer, Leonardo could probably have done nearly anything asked of him. This is how he convinced the Duke of Milan to begin funding his many projects known today. Leonardo sent the Duke a letter asking for a job as an engineer that specifically worked for the military, because he knew the Duke would me more willing to fund projects that would benefit him directly. This ingenuity and skill to adapt to whatever situation presented has left Leonardo with a legacy that includes magnificent art pieces, such as The Last Supper, and hundreds of exploded engineering drawings that have influenced the world today.
Leonardo lived during the Renaissance, a time when Italy was experiencing a great cultural change. To be a “Renaissance Man”, one had to encompass the humanist ideals that put the individual at the center of society. Leonardo was just that. His fascinating piece, the Vitruvian Man, was the definition of the Renaissance. It is interesting because it places man at both the center of the material world (with the man inscribed in a square) and the spiritual world (with the man inscribed in a circle). Human beings before this time were always looking to God for guidance and understanding the world around them. But with Leonardo’s view that man actually controls society with the basis of science, math, and proportionality, the humanistic approach took control.
His approach was not only influential in human thought, but architecture as well. It is thought that the human body has ideal proportions, from which other things such as buildings can be based off of. This is truly revolutionary because it relies on man, that we have the ability to be perfect, and thus make other things perfect as well.
The ideas of man being at the center of society also constructed the idea of ideal cities. These were built for beauty, geometry, and the noblemen. The ideal city was practical and efficient, like Leonardo. It would be built by a river for transportation, sewage, and hygiene reasons. It would also follow a level of social hierarchy. Noblemen on higher levels while lower classes were on the lower levels. It is interesting that divisions were made between humans because the humanistic thought focuses on man being the center of society; therefore, what makes some more central compared to others?
Not only was society moving towards more individualistic thought, but science and math were heavily relied on as well. They were used to study time and predict the future. At the time, the Earth was the considered the center of the universe. Although this idea is wrong, the science and math done to predict time were correct. This is extraordinary because it showed that math and science were always right over man’s thought. This then leads us to questions regarding what modern society studies now. How can we know that we are interpreting our scientific conclusions correctly? While we many never know, I think it is Leonardo who introduced and prolonged the idea that man can change society by being creative and open-minded and utilizing human inventiveness and improvisation.
Looking at Leonardo’s exploded drawings of war machines and the development of Italian technology, it is evident that this is the Italian way. Not only is it the Italian way of design and production, but it has become the way that some of the worlds most revolutionary technology and scientific thought has come about, such as Apple or Facebook.
A quote in the museum was really interesting to me and I found that is summarizes the influence of Leonardo da Vinci. It stated, “Sapere. Fare. Saper fare. Scienza e tecnologica come strumenti di conoscenza e attrezzi di vita. Questi I mondi che esploriamo.” This means, “Knowing. Doing. Knowing how. Science and technology are tools for knowledge and resources for life. They are the worlds we explore.”
Leonardo’s legacy means that the human being has the power to use tools and resources presented to us to enhance our global standards, both physically and mentally.