Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, january 05, 2012

Leonardo da Vinci

By Munawar Mobin

So we've read the Da Vinci code. And forgotten most of it by now. But there are certain things that stick with you about a certain person. Leonardo Da Vinci, painter of Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, keeper of secrets. Yes, he was a painter, and yes, he was part of secret societies. But for someone as famous as he is, there has to be some other substantial things that he's done to warrant such devoted remembrance. After all, he wasn't part of any royal family [the Kardashians of the medieval period].

As irritating snobs put it, he's a polymath. Popular theory suggests that Leonardo had roughly five pair of arms, or at least two or three twins stashed away, Prestige style. Because, while most of us have trouble doing two creative things at the same time - say playing music and writing - Leo found the time to be a sculptor, architect, botanist, engineer, inventor, anatomist, mathematician and scientist [after engineering, like duh?!]. Oh, and he also wrote and played music.

Apart from discovering new methods for irrigation by diverting rivers, building better bridges, making the sewing machine, Leo also thought of a flying machine. Of course, his theory remained a theory since he didn't have the resources at that time to create actual working models, but he did come up with the idea of the parachute and the helicopter. He's the reason Ahnold can head back to da choppa.

If you find the idea of flight during the Middle Ages absurd, think about how the idea of a tank would sound back then. Yeah, he's the man who came up with the forerunners of the Imperial Walkers [we hope scientists are trying to make those]. Da Vinci's notebooks were full of drawings of the tank. Sadly they were never properly implemented. He even thought of the ultimate destroyer at sea, a naval fleet with submersible ships and a SEAL team. That's submarines. Thought of in the Early 1500s.

He wasn't all war though. Leonardo was very interested about the workings of the human body. He had clearance at Florence's hospital to study dead bodies. So by cutting up dead criminals and the like, he was able to provide our current world with acute notes on certain medical conditions. The man is also said to have discovered the cause of heart disease.

If his fame hadn't spread to such vast and distant parts of Italy, he probably would've been jailed or put down for being mentally ill. If the actions above aren't enough, we've got another one of his ideas for you: Robots. Yeah, you read that right. Robots. Leonardo's notebooks also contained drawings and conceptual theories about his versions of robots.

Of course he didn't have the technology to bring his invention to life but recently a group of scientists have tried to build one of his robots. They made it exactly as Leo had envisioned in his notebook, following his exact methods. And it worked. If he had lived now, we'd probably have personal robots to scratch our backs, take out the garbage and make us nice, big chocolate chip cookies.

Leonardo da Vinci was a man extremely ahead of his time, so far ahead that his most of his methods never made it out of paper. But once made, they all worked perfect. Genius, at its best.



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