Inventors are the way in which the world moves forward. Without their creativity, the world would never advance past the “modern” devices of each time period. The names of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (inventor of the microscope), Ben Franklin, and Thomas Edison all are some of the great inventors that have helped to move society forward. But none are more important than Leonardo da Vinci. Today, we were able to see the work of this great artist, sculptor, and architect firsthand as we toured the Mueso Nazionale della Scienza e Tecnologia. This museum is full of Leonardo’s sketches, prototypes, and documents. Not only did we see a lot from Leonardo, but also many of the great scientific and technological advancements from Italy. It was a treat to be able to see the greatness of the inventors of Italy in person. The museum was also housed in an ancient Benedictine monastery. Going to a Benedictine high school, this part was very interesting to me, and the beauty of the monastery showed through. We were then able to visit Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, a Catholic university in the area, and meet and interact some of the students from there.
There are many aspects of Leonardo’s life. He was not just a master of one subject, but of almost all of them it seems. He studied subjects from human anatomy to botany to optics and engineering to art and sculpting. The list goes on and on. In fact, our tour guide mentioned today that only 12,000 pages of Leonardo’s notes still exist. When he died, he left all of his notes and projects to two of his apprentices. However, these two people were not very caring of his work. They lost over half of the notes Leonardo worked on creating over the course of his life. Leonardo came to Milan with the idea of the perfect city in mind. Most artists and architects designed their “perfect city” with beauty in mind. Leonardo did not forget about the practicality aspect. He was designing this perfect city during one of the many plagues of Europe. Milan’s conditions were the perfect breeding place for disease: open sewage, long narrow streets, etc. Leonardo designed a city to eliminate this, but still incorporated the beauty. The city was full of canals for transportation of goods and also to help dispose of wastes.
There are many things that Leonardo worked on that stand out to me. In fact, the part of Leonardo’s life that stands out to me most is the fact that he was a master of so many different subjects. Most people would say that they have experience in more than one area, or are decent at multiple subjects, but none of them masters of all of it. Leonardo, however, was a master of everything he took upon himself. At first, he would describe himself as a military engineer. Most of the drawings and devices he made for the dukes of Milan could be used in war. He designed retractable bridges, ramming ships, and mills to use for making things out of silk. Later in his life, he then proceeded to do whatever he pleased. The dukes would continue to invest in Leonardo, but being the anarchist that he was, he would do his own thing at all times. The Last Supper, one of his most well-known and impressive paintings was made using the unlimited budget the dukes gave him. Because of this, he proceeded to use the most expensive colors and took as much time as possible on the project. (It’s safe to say the dukes never gave this to him again).
Because Leonardo da Vinci was a master of so many different trades, I am very interested in his work. One of the things that I relate to most in him is this fact. When I start something, I do my best to fight it out and complete/master the task. This does not always work out, but this is because I am not a master-of-all-trades like the great Leonardo da Vinci. However, I can say that I am on my way to being a Renaissance Man of sorts in my mastering the use of the Italian Metro system!