10 Visionary Inventions by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a genius born before his time. He had a way of seeing everything connected rather than as different fields of science that enabled him to conceive of miraculous and wonderful inventions. Most of his ideas were written down and collected by him in notebooks. With over thirteen thousand pages in his lifetime, there are still notes and diagrams that we have yet to study. Here are but a few of the wondrous imaginings come true, all of which can be found in detail scattered throughout his notes. In this list we take a look at some of his most recognized inventions and developments.

10. Viola Organista


Leonardo’s Viola Organista was an experimental instrument of unique design. It embraces the concepts of both the organ and the violin. Just as one would strike a key in a piano or organ causing a string to be struck, vibrating a sound or musical note, or draw a bow over a violin’s string to scratch out a tone, so combined the viola organista these two concepts. You would strike a key causing the string to be pushed against a moving bow. Leonardo never actually built the instrument so the world had to wait for nearly a century to hear it in principal. The German instrument inventor Hans Haiden made a similar device in 1575. Composer/Conductor Roger Kamien put together an appreciation CD using the instrument, called a Geigenwerk, using Mozart’s Symphony # 40.

9. Modern Map Making


Maps and the art of map making have been around as early as the 7th Millennium BCE (Before Common Era) if you can loosely apply the word to wall paintings. The oldest surviving maps are the Babylonian World Maps of the 9th century BCE. However, while maps had been around before Leonardo da Vinci, they were so rare that when he presented a map to Cesare Borgia, of his stronghold, it made a tremendous impression. So much so that Borgia hired him on the spot as his chief military engineer architect. The fact that Leonardo was able to create a map with such detail was amazing. He would literally walk the area off personally using his sharp mind to retain and transfer the terrain to canvas. He advanced the art of map-making more in two years than it has ever advanced before or since.

8. Scaling and Siege Ladder


The next time you see a fire engine come roaring down your street, think of Leonardo da Vinci. His design of the wall-scaling ladder was adapted for the ladders that firefighters use to save lives today. His version was built to enable invading armies scale the outside walls of castle strongholds easier and quicker. It allowed for adjustable heights and transported easily. Like much of da Vinci’s work, it was not built until many years after his death.


7. Helicopter


Can you imagine how Leonardo da Vinci would have reacted if he were to come back for one day? What would he think about today’s world and the many wonderful advances we have made? What would he think about the helicopter? It was he who designed the first one, after all. He took the idea from a Chinese toy that used a screw and spiral to achieve lift. His design also incorporated his observations of the spiral in nature, such as the seeds that fall from the sycamore tree. His design was used in the first helicopter invented by the Frenchman, Gustave de Ponton d’ Amecourt. It was powered by steam. It’s also said that Igor Sikorsky was shown Leonardo’s work and this inspired him to further study the field of the helicopter, the same field in which he became a world leader.

Beautiful animation

6. Tank


Da Vinci knew that his genius at advanced warfare would put his designs at risk so he designed the gears in his blueprint notes backwards just in case they were stolen. This would prevent them from being used should they fall into the wrong hands. His tank was an ingenious design that could be used to break the enemy’s lines. Four men inside a turtle like shell could attack ground forces relatively safely by turning cranks inside to propel them into battle. The world’s first armored assault vehicle, or tank, is conceived.


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