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About this Article
Written by: Leallyn Murtagh
Written on: November 4th, 2005
Tags: health & medicine, mechanical engineering, civil engineering
Thumbnail by: Leonardo da Vinci/Wikimedia Commons
About the Author
Leallyn Murtagh was a junior majoring in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. Aside from his scholarly pursuits, Leallyn enjoys strumming his guitar and someday hopes to open a restaurant.
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Volume VIII Issue I > Leonardo da Vinci: The Engineer
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) lived in Florence, Italy, for most of his life and spent much of his time in private studies. He is mostly known for painting the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, two of the most famous paintings in Western art, but his work as a scientist and inventor is often forgotten. Commonly called a universal genius because of his diverse talents, Da Vinci has inspired artists, architects, and engineers of all disciplines. Biomedical engineering, a field that has only recently grown in industry and academia, can trace its early beginnings to Da Vinci's curious investigation of the human anatomy.

Da Vinci the Engineer

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519), well known as an artist, inventor, architect, and anatomist, embodies the quintessential "Renaissance man." The book The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, and the recently adapted film have made Da Vinci a popular subject, however they mostly highlight his artistic talent. In addition to his time spent as a painter and sculptor, Da Vinci (Fig. 1) devoted his life to thousands of drawings and diagrams dealing with math, science, and engineering, especially as he grew older [1]. Compared with only 10 paintings in art galleries around the world and a few hundred other personal drawings, his notebooks filled with technical drawings are indicative of Da Vinci's predominant interests [1]. In 1501, an agent of an Italian noblewoman who was pursuing Da Vinci for artistic commission, described him as a man "so much distracted from painting by his mathematical experiments as to become intolerant of the brush" [1].
Leonardo da Vinci/Wikimedia Commons
Figure 1: Leonardo da Vinci was a well known artist, inventor, artist, and anatomist.
Driven by unending curiosity and creativity, he designed mechanical devices for manufacturing, war, and transportation. Meanwhile, he mapped out the human body's internal organs, muscles and bones more thoroughly than anyone before him. Most of Da Vinci's work was never realized during his lifetime, and unfortunately, other more modern scientists and inventors have taken credit for his ingenuity.