10 of Leonardo da Vinci’s Greatest Inventions

Leonardo da Vinci was the greatest inventive mind of the Renaissance. Not only was a master painter and sculptor he was a mechanical genius and we now know he could and probably did create automatons capable of simple actions that mimic the human in both form and function. Today, you will become acquainted with 10 of his greatest inventions.

Some of these have only seen the light of day in the last few years and further examination of the existing and known papers hint at even more marvels yet to be discovered.

When you have finished reading this article, you’ll be amazed at the breadth and width of his genius and perhaps there are even more surprises in store as more and more da Vinci materials are being unearthed.

Remember that the majority of da Vinci’s notebooks and papers have never been located and they may still waiting to be discovered in some forgotten corner of a used bookshop or forgotten library in Europe.

1) Helicopter

Properly speaking this would be called an “Air Screw” as it would be built using a screw shaped airfield to drive air downward and thereby creating lift. There is no record of his device being made. However, copies of his manned glider have been flown successfully. Both as models and as full sized versions as well.

2) Parachute

Along with his designs for gliders and ornithopters, he also designed equipment to escape or “bail out” of them and his parachute was the result. It was recreated in the year 200 and it worked as advertised. The daredevil who build and tested it landed safely and said that it gave a better ride down than conventional designs now in use. Again almost 500 years later da Vinci is vindicated.

This leads one to ask what are hidden in the many thousands of missing papers and notebooks still waiting to be rediscovered.

3) Diving Suit

While da Vinci is mostly noted for his studies of birds and his war inventions, he, however, was fascinated by water and all things connected with it. His underwater suits either used bladder filled with air or a bell that performed the same function. The unusual addition was a special mechanism to allow the divers to urinate while underwater allowing them to say down potential as long as needed. The suits may have been created as invaders that these suits were created to fight, by drilling holes in the attacking vessels hulls. The entire issue was rendered moot when the invaders were defeated by the Venetian navy.

4) Tank

General George Patton and Erwin Rommel the “Desert Fox” brought the concept of tank warfare to a high art. However, Leonardo Da Vinci foresaw the use of tanks and armored fighting vehicles. He even worked out the use of infantry supporting the vehicle as it made its way across the battlefield. This was done in 1487 over 450 years before America’s entry into World War II.

5) Machine Gun

During WW I, the Machine Gun became the king of the battlefield and even today most armies build their military strategies around the use of crew served weapons and the use of automated machine guns were created to protect forward firebases in Vietnam and even today high-security areas have more advanced variants of these weapons. As of this writing,  S.W.O.R.D. robots are being deployed to world trouble spots to test new generations of machine guns.

Da Vinci designed an 8-barrel machine gun of his own. However, the design was rejected as it was considered a cruel and dishonorable way to wage war.

Sadly, the world has changed its mind since then and weapons of area killing have become the rule rather than the exception.

6) Leonardo’s Robots

Found in a dusty corner of a library stuffed in with some old papers were some lost diagrams of what appeared to be a mechanical man. This created shockwaves worldwide, as after they were integrated with the scattered pieces of Leonardo’s other notebooks by an NASA Engineer was the mystery was finally solved. Later in Berlin, a fully working model was reconstructed. It could sit, stand, and even raise its visor with its hand, this lead credence to the many stories of Leonardo’s genius with all things mechanical. Since then many of his other automata have been duplicated and all are fully functional as described in the many surviving eyewitness documents. So, Isaac Asimov may have to step down as the father of robotics in history books of speculative fiction.

7) Ball Bearing

While this may not sound like much. However, the entire world would grind to a halt without this simple device. Germany’s war machine was stopped when the allies bombed their ball bearing plants as this integral part of virtually ever thing from cars, aircraft, and rocketry production ground to a halt. Leonardo thought the idea up between 1498 and 1500. If any had followed up on this or any of Leonardo’s other inventions where would we be now?!? But remember every thing Leonardo invented except for select items were kept a deep dark secret until many years after his death.

8) Viola Organista

Many are unaware that Leonardo was a consummate musician and some feel if he had not been apprenticed to Verrocchio he might have become a famous musical talent instead that of an artist. One of his more unusual musical instruments was his Viola Organista, which combine many instruments into one instrument, which could be considered the forerunner of the music synthesizer. A replica was constructed and played in concert in Poland in 2013. This again shows that Leonardo was not only just a painter but also a Polymath Artist who knew no limits for music, art, and science.

9) Leonardo’s Lion

With the discovery of Leonardo’s Robot sparked interest in other forms of Leonardo’s Automata one of the most interesting was his mechanical lion that walked wagged its tail and opened up to display the fleurs-de-lis of France at King Francois I’s pageant celebrating his coronation. The Lion Symbol of Florence and the flower symbolized France.

It was recreated 500 years later

This has opened up speculation about other of Da Vinci’s mechanical marvels such as flying birds and singing animals that once inhabited a menagerie, he supposedly created for his patron’s amusement were, in fact, real also. The lion was recreated in France in 2009 at the Château du Clos Lucé and PARC where Leonardo spent his last years of his life. This and his other inventions showed that Da Vinci could not only work wonders in science and the arts but also blend them together as well for the enjoyment of all.

10) Keeping Time

Leonardo also was fascinated with the concept of time and if one thinks of all the inventions he created, he himself could be the “Traveler” talked about in H.G. Wells book “The Time Machine.” Perhaps Wells had met Leonardo as he was passing through the 19th century and later was stranded in the 1500’s. Many people have speculated that Leonardo was a man out of place and could very well be a shipwrecked space traveler or Time Traveler. Some interesting speculative fiction stories have explored this concept.

However, Leonardo designed a timepiece that used two separate mechanisms, one for the hours and one for minutes that used an unusual and complicated system to get them to synchronize and work together. It might be noted that Leonardo’s clock was far beyond anything currently in use during the 15th century. It even rivals timepieces made today by the Swiss. It used diamonds and other minerals to allow the various gears and springs to move with almost no friction.

Parting thoughts

Leonardo was the definition of the Renaissance Man, an ideal that is almost forgotten in this age of specialization and pigeonholing of people. The clock is now a harsh taskmaster instead of an aid to help one keep track of time. Many of his inventions are now in common use and if you look at the results, they have wrought in today’s world. Perhaps he was wiser than we are, by hiding them for over 500 years. Look around you and decide for yourself if the world is a better place or not with all of the inventions that he created 500 years ago.

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