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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    Pioneer Profile

    Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)

    Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452 in the small town of Vinci, in Tuscany, near Florence. In 1466, Leonardo moved to Florence, where he entered the workshop of Verrocchio. During this time, da Vinci encountered such artists as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and Lorenzo di Credi. Early in his apprenticeship he painted an angel, and perhaps portions of the landscape, in Verrocchio's Baptism of Christ (Uffizi). In 1472, he was registered in the painters' guild and began his artistic career.

    DaVincis-Aerial-ScrewHowever, not only was Leonardo a brilliant artist, he was an amazing inventor. Leonardo had many ideas and drawings on different war machines, flying machines, work machines, water and land machines, and as well as architectural structures. Many years after his death, his drawings and theories were discovered by people who did not realize that he had already designed numerous machines of the present and the future. Leonardo was a man who loved art, but despised war. This does not mean that the concept of war was not among many of his thoughts. Most of Leonardo's machines had something to do with war. For example a circular armored car that could shoot three hundred and sixty degrees without turning, a thirty three barreled organ, automatic hull rammer, multiple cross bows, and many more. Leonardo also had some of the earliest ideas on flight. One of the most well known ideas of Leonardo's flying machines was the aerial screw. This contraption has been classified as the helicopter's ancestor. The aerial screw has almost the same concept of the helicopter. The prop of the aerial screw is a flat screw, and when turned it would create lift. Some of Leonardo's inventions were not tested in his time, because he would move on the other projects; the aerial screw was one of these inventions that were left untested. (Image 1: Manuscript B, folio 83 v. )

    DaVincis-parachutteAnother piece of ingenious from Leonardo was the parachute. The only difference between the ones today and his is that he used a temple like structure for the parachute. Leonardo had many ideas for gliders, and also a drawing of a leaf spring engine for flying machines. Some of Leonardo's concepts are being used today, of course with a few modifications, for example the scuba diving suit.

    Leonardo's thoughts and theories have had an impacted on our world today. With out Leonardo's ideas we might not have been where we are today. We could have been still trying to find out how to break the sound barrier, because Leonardo would have not inspired the early scientist like Otto Lilienthal. Without Otto Lilienthal the Wright brothers who not have read that nine-page article on Lilienthal in the September issue of McClure's Magazine. (Image 2: Codex Atlanticus, folio 1058 Drawing from Il Codice Atlantico di Leonardo da Vinci nella biblioteca Ambrosiana di Milano, Editore Milano Hoepli 1894-1904)

    Provided to the AIAA for the sole purpose of its Evolution of Flight Campaign.

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