With our third day in Milan, Italy, our group took a trip to the Da Vinci museum. Unbeknownst to me, Leonardo was first supported by the Duke of Milan, and conducted some of his best architectural work and engineering here before moving his work to Florence explaining the presence of the museum in this city. Housed in an old monastery, the basic, bare exterior of this museum was in stark contrast to what fascinating paintings, devices, and overall knowledge that the interior housed. Our group was set up with a tour guide, who walked us through each room, providing helpful knowledge and historical context to each piece we saw. Throughout the museum, it was clear that the work that Da Vinci conducted as an inventor was both hugely diverse, and immensely
on the technology that would be developed by leaders in science, generations later.
Truth be told, flying was what I wanted to do more than anything else in the world as a child. Because of this, the efforts that Da Vinci made towards advancing technology concerning human flight fascinates me to no end. Having seen the drawings and schematics of Leonardo’s hypothesized flying machines and gliders at that age, seeing some of these again brought out a sort of childlike wonder in me. I was even more ecstatic see that some of these theoretical machines schematics had been used to create actual models about which our tour guide provided some information.
The first example of Leonardo’s attempt at a flying machine that we observed incorporated a fabric sheet that extended out of a rotating post, wrapping upwards around the post in a corkscrew fashion. Leonardo hypothesized that if the post was rotated quickly enough, the corkscrewing fabric would create a downward force strong enough to lift an attached craft up. As our tour guide explained, many art historians that studied Da Vinci’s notebooks and work mistakenly labeled him as essentially the inventor of the helicopter. Though this may not have been quite accurate, in that the device obviously didn’t work among other things, it is not hard to see a trace of this invention within helicopters, given that both rely on the rapid spinning of an angled blade.
The second model was of Da Vinci’s proposed design of a glider, which hung from the ceiling in one of the rooms of the museum. This glider is unlike any that are seen today, what with the advancements that glider technology. Its cloth wings seemed to be designed to look very similar to that of a featherless bird, having a webbed look to them. Our tour guide explained to us that Da Vinci actually had a functional tool of flight with this design, evidenced by the notes he took on the specifications of the various aspects of the glider. With notes on optimal wing shape, as well as the efficiency of multiple types of cloth, information such as this could not possibly have been learned without the actual testing of it. Unfortunately, the time of Leonardo’s inventing of this glider coincided with the Duke of Milan being kidnapped and killed, cutting Da Vinci off from the financial support and the facilities the he needed to continue his research. With an invention that could have possibly jumpstarted man’s foray into flight, one has to wonder what could have been had this unfortunate event not occurred when it did. Nevertheless, there is still an obvious resemblance between Da Vinci’s wings and a modern hang glider, demonstrating that his groundbreaking work was not all for naught.
Aside from my own interest in flying, Leonardo’s impact of flight interests me simply because of the time period in which he conducted his research. Though it was a time of great technological advancement, the object of man flying was such a far off and seemingly impossible goal in the Renaissance that people probably thought what Leonardo was pursuing was ludicrous, whether he was a genius or not. Regardless, Leonardo forged on with his work, providing insights to all who pursued flight after him. I believe it is safe to say that the landscape of flight would be vastly different without the work Da Vinci contributed.
Continuing with our day after our visit to the museum, we met with a group of Italian college students from Univesita Cattolica, a University in Milan and grabbed lunch with them in their own cafeteria. Needless the food served here was leagues above anything served back in Pitt’s Market Central. Though we conversed mostly in English, it was great to have conversations with some Italians outside of the context of ordering food. From talk of fashion, to football(soccer), to comparing college life, I was glad to get to know some of the students in the short period of time with them, finding that they weren’t so different from us in the slightest, save for some age differences.
Overall, today was relaxed yet full of interesting information, and I believe I am starting to really get into the swing of things on this trip. Tomorrow it is back to learning of fashion, so I will have you posted shortly on that!