On our group’s third day in Milan, we traveled to the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit in the National Museum of Science and Technology. In particular, this exhibit emphasized the wide variety of focuses that Leonardo achieved during his career and specifically his time in Milan. One of the first achievements that was emphasized was Leonardo’s concept of “ideal cities” and laying out models in search of ways to improve the overall quality of cities. In particular, his plans impacted the city of Milan in a variety of ways. His plans were meant to improve the functionality, practicality and overall beauty of the city. Specifically, Milan was facing minor plagues roughly two times each century and Leonardo wanted to improve the overall health infrastructure of the city. To do this, he focused on the implementation of canals in the city to reduce the amount of open sewage in the city streets, thus decreasing the chance of a plague outbreak. In addition, these canals benefitted Milan by increasing transportation options for both the citizens and government. Something that I found troubling was hearing the tour guide explain how Leonardo originally had nearly 25,000 pages of notes and designs for a variety of subjects and through a lack of responsibility from those around him after he passed away there were only 12,000 left. These lost pages would have most definitely built upon his already incredible legacy. Also these pages could have planted ideas for others to build upon and positively influence society. Furthermore, many of Leonardo’s designs were nothing close to the actual finished product but they were able to inspire those who followed his legacy to improve upon and eventually perfect. This disclaimer is not meant to discredit Leonardo but rather speak to the vastness of his abilities as an inventor. Without his work in such a wide variety of fields, society would look much different compared to where we are today.
Leonardo also excelled in anatomy which helped lead the medical field and gave mankind a much more complete understanding of the human body. Due to his research, he was able to draw both the inside and outside of the human body which gave medical professionals across the world a more thorough understanding of the proportions and design of the human body. Leonardo also penned medical journals that continued to establish him as a well versed researcher for his day. It would be disrespectful to Leonardo to mention his accomplishments and not mention his artistic abilities. He painted two of the most iconic paintings of all time during the course of his life, one being the Mona Lisa and the other being The Last Supper. The Mona Lisa is currently held at the Louvre in Paris and The Last Supper is held in Milan, both paintings draw millions of visitors each year and have stood the course of time incredibly well. Their popularity will not decline anytime soon and they are both a testament to Leonardo’s artistic capabilities. Leonardo’s ideas were revolutionary and centuries ahead of their time, laying the groundwork for modern day conveniences such as the helicopter, tank, calculator and many more. It would not be true to say that he solely invented all of these things, but rather made a major contribution to them by laying the early groundwork for their future production.
The aspect of Leonardo that fascinates me the most is the sheer scope of topics that he consistently worked in and excelled at. The true definition of a renaissance man, his ability to lead the fields of military engineering, optics, painting, botany, and anatomy is unparalleled. Throughout the recorded history of mankind, this type of mastery in such a wide range of topics has never been seen before him and has not been seen since his time. Obviously, there have been many other inventors to come after Leonardo but no one else has even scratched close to his abilities. Even modern day inventors like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos have been influential in just one or two individual fields, not to take away from their respective success but their level of innovation and frequency does not come close to the impact that Leonardo had on society as a whole. In closing, there will never be another Leonardo Da Vinci but that is ok, because one was enough.