On our third day in Milan, we began the day by visiting the National Museum of Science and Technology. We saw many different cool exhibits including boats, trains, and planes ann designed by Italians, however one thing that stood out to me was the amount of exhibits designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. I have known about Da Vinci since a young age, due to his influence in the art world, but I wasn’t expecting so much of his artwork to appear in a science museum. While Da Vinci is a well renown artist, it turns out his main passion was engineering. This fascinated me as I am also an engineer and through all of my engineering studies all I’ve learned is math, physics, and chemistry. Seeing that engineering can also be related to art has shown me that engineering project are often not only based on science, but that they can also be based on artwork.
Throughout his life, Da Vinci made numerous innovations in the fields of military engineering, painting, architecture, and anatomy. On this trip I learned that at the beginning of his career, he wanted to be a military engineer so bad that he sent a letter to the Duke of Milan asking for a position. In this letter was a list of his 10 best qualities. Da Vinci wanted to work in Milan, as during the 1200’s Milan was a bustling military capital of Italy. Da Vinci ended up getting a job and during his time as a military engineer, Da Vinci designed multiple projects including a glider, many ships, and bridges. These designs were very useful at the time and even inspired many future inventions.
The prestige of Da Vinci’s legacy exists not at all because of his engineering innovations, but because of his mix of engineering with his most famous occupation of painting. Da Vinci was obviously famous for painting the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, but these aren’t displayed in Milan as many Italians don’t value this as much as they value his other achievements. Most engineering projects are designed through sketches. Da Vinci took sketches to a new level, as instead of just drawing sketches of finished projects, he would draw detailed exploded sketches which would show each part of what was being produced. Da Vinci would make these exploded sketches compromised by smaller part by part sketches on different pages. These pages would be scattered all over the world and each part could then be produced. Da Vinci’s concept of exploded sketches not only combined art with engineering, but also revolutionized the field of engineering in general, and has led to many major technological innovations. This concept fascinates me personally, as I love to see engineering be comprised of art as opposed to just mentally draining sciences. As an Engineer, even I plan to use exploded sketches for projects of my own.
Past the engineering and art, Da Vinci also significantly impacted the field of anatomy. He was known for writing medical journals without actually having gone to medical school, and he diagrammed the entire human body’s interior and exterior. A painting that stood out to me in particular was a painting of a perfect man, who had as long an arm span as he had a height. This was fascinating because it proportionalized the human body for the first time in recorded human history. He made a sketch of a human standing up vs. a human with their limbs inscribed in a circle and a box around the torso to illustrate in an abstract way that man is the center of the universe. Leonardo’s anatomical innovations were significant enough to add to his legacy in art and engineering.
One theme that fit today is the individual/personal issues of Italy. Today we met students from the Catholica University of Milan. When talking with them through dinner, I was able to see how a typical Italian lives and goes to school. One cultural difference that stood out to me was living at home vs. the dorm cultural and living on their own. In Italy it is normal for citizens to live at home until they get married. This is due to high cost of living, and also due to the fact that in Italian culture, places to live are family tradition. A house is usually inherited by children, so they can live their lives and raise their kids in the house that they grew up in. I was intrigued by this thought as people in the United States often buy, rent, and sell housing like it’s nothing. In Italy the process of acquiring real estate is also a lot longer, so it is harder to buy, rent, or sell like people do in the US. I also learned that people in Italy often travel more than people in the US, as it is very cheap and easy to travel around Europe. This amount of travel often leads them to be more culturally aware than most Americans. Because of this, a lot of Italians look down on Americans as ignorant. Even with this negative stigma going around, Italians also often have good opinions of Americans, as many of them like our entertainment and many dream of coming to the US to go to college. They recognize our higher education system as one of the best in the world, and it often leads to a lot more light to be shined on the United States. Today I was very happy to be able to meet Italian college students and tour the National Museum of Science and Technology, and I am excited for what the next few days have to offer. Stay tuned!