It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… an ornithopter! Leonardo da Vinci was one of the world’s most imaginative inventors, and many of his most creative creations inspired some of the machines we use today. Here are seven of da Vinci’s most fascinating inventions.
Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, theorist, scientist, engineer, sculptor, and architect (to name a few of his hobbies). He’s the textbook example of a true “renaissance man.” Combining several of these skills, da Vinci was responsible for a number of innovative inventions that served as predecessors to the tools we use today.
Looking at da Vinci’s inventions, it’s clear to see the man had a thing for aviation. He was intrigued with the concept of man traveling like birds through the sky. This fascination inspired one of his most famous inventions, the ornithopter.
This “flying machine” resembles a primitive airplane, featuring a space for the pilot to lay face-down while pedaling and hand-cranking a rod-and-pulley system to control the wings. In theory, it seemed like a sound method for humans to take flight. However, the proposed design did not generate enough power for the machine to even get off the ground.
Another airborne invention, the helical aerial screw bears a close resemblance to today’s helicopters. To induce vertical flight, a spiral mechanism fashioned from linen, cords, and a wooden foundation was meant to compress air as it spun.
Yet another flight-inspired design was the triangular parachute. Unlike modern parachutes, da Vinci’s design featured wooden poles for structure, draped with a piece of linen to form a pyramid shape. Several centuries after its conception, skydiver Adrian Nicholas created a replica of the triangle parachute. He claimed it provided a smoother descent than modern parachutes.
In addition to being a flight fanatic, da Vinci also had a fascination with warfare. He believed that the tools and tactics of the time were inefficient and needed improvement. So he created the barreled cannon.
The contraption was designed to alleviate the inconveniently long lag time between rounds of cannon fire by adjusting the reloading process. With a rotating barrel, this automatic weapon would continue shooting while new cannons were being loaded. The barreled cannon was a precursor to the machine gun of today.
Another war-related invention, da Vinci’s diving suit was designed so that Venetian soldiers could move underwater to sneak up on enemy ships. This apparatus was made from leather and featured goggles and a breathing tube connected to air tanks. It is one of the oldest renderings of the modern-day scuba suit.
Also inspired by the travails of warfare, da Vinci designed a mechanism to help troops cross bodies of water more easily. His collapsible bridge was transportable and could be set up in new locations. This self-supporting bridge did not require any fasteners and featured notches to strengthen the structure.
Perhaps one of the most interesting of da Vinci’s inventions was the robotic knight. While (obviously) not computerized, da Vinci’s robot operated via a system of pulleys and levers. Miraculously, the knight’s internal mechanisms allowed it to sit, stand, and move its head in a similar fashion to real human movements.
So many of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic designs began as simple drawings in a notebook. Whether you have an artist-level rendering or a simple napkin sketch, we can help turn your revolutionary ideas into a reality. Just let us know how we can help!
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