Leonardo da Vinci

Seeing the World Differently

Leonardo, Trickster

There were numerous reports of Leonardo's love of setting up elaborate games and puzzles for his own amusement, and that of his friends. Sometimes, these tricks were the spark for new inventions—a breathing tube morphed into the first scuba gear designs; a cart on springs became the first recorded "robot" in history.

Inventor of the Whoopee Cushion?

Leonardo loved playing tricks and games on his friends. He would throw elaborate dinner parties for his friends, inflate a pig's intestines (otherwise used to mix paints and keep them from drying out), hide it in full sight and laugh when it exploded underfoot.

Side-View Selfie?

He set up a system of mirrors to be able to paint his subjects (and his own portrait) from different angles, including the ability to draw his self-portrait in three-quarters view, a first.

Vegas-Style Shows

The Duke Ludovico di Sforza of Milan first hired Leonardo as a singer and musician. It is said the Maestro had a beautiful voice. The Duke later commissioned Leonardo to mount extravagant musicales and pageants for entertaining his noble guests at dinner.

Mirror Writing

Before there were copyright laws, there were pirates who would steal the ideas and creations of inventors, artists and musicians and claim them for their own. In Leonardo’s time, there was no law against it—and no Internet to search for copycats.

To keep his discoveries, inventions and ideas secret, Leonardo developed a system of mirror writing—writing from right to left, and often with unusual marks and punctuation—to throw copycats off the mark. But there's another reason many experts think Leonardo adopted this reverse-writing system: he was left-handed. And as Charley, a leftie herself, notes, smudging is a common side effect. Before the invention of the ballpoint pen in the 20th century—and for an artist in particular—smudging one's sketches made of ink, charcoal and chalk would have been a serious hazard of the trade.

Sleep: a Secret Weapon?

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death.

Leonardo da Vinci

It is rumored that Leonardo followed a weird sleep cycle: 20-minute naps every four hours! This may have been one of the secrets of why he was so productive—he had more awake time than the average person of his day (or ours!), whose sleep cycle without electric light might more closely follow the pattern of day and night.

It would seem that a mind like Leonardo's, going all the time, would not want to spend a full eight hours in sleep. The novelist Matteo Bandello saw Leonardo at work on his famous masterpiece, "The Last Supper." Bandello wrote that on some days Leonardo would paint from morning till night without stopping to eat. Then for three or four days he would not paint at all. He would often just stand and look at the painting. Seems like an unusual schedule, but perhaps this is an indication of the creative process at work.

We do know he invented a night clock-candle to track what a sundial could not—perhaps so he could work through the night.

Inventing the Future

Think about the world back before the Internet, before TV, before phones, before electricity: it was very difficult to get information. There were books, but most people were illiterate. Schooling didn't become public and universal until the 1800s in the United States, much later elsewhere.

So how could Leonardo da Vinci, a self taught man, create, discover and invent everything from a model for the airplane to a submarine to a bridge whose design is being replicated around the world today?

Ask Charley, and she'll tell you it's because she ended up teaching Leonardo—about gravity, the Internet, and Einstein's Theory of Relativity!

However it happened, it seems without question that da Vinci was bent on inventing the future. How he did it is, perhaps, the ultimate mystery.

First Human to Land on Mars!

Given da Vinci's passion to discover the secrets of manned flight, and the future he foresaw, it is a tribute to the Universal Genius that he would be the "first human" to land on Mars. A digital replica of Leonardo's Codex on the Flight of Birds, along with a copy of his self-portrait, were placed aboard the Curiosity spacecraft destined for Mars where the ship landed safely on December 22, 2013.