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Leonardo Da Vinci

1452-1519. Florentine artist, scientist, and inventor. Born the natural son of a notary, he studied under Verrochio and in 1482 left Florence for Milan, where he served the duke until 1499. He wandered for several years, but finally settled in France under the patronage of the king where he remained until his death. Although a universal man, Leonardo placed painting above the other arts, for he felt it was the best method by which to present the work of nature to the senses. Thus it extends to the surfaces, colors, and forms of natural objects which science studies in their intrinsic forms. The beauty that painting seeks is the proportion of the things themselves. Proportion is found not only in numbers, but in sounds, weights, time, space, and any natural force. These principles he applied in such works as the Virgin of the Rocks, the Last Supper, and the Mona Lisa.

But Leonardo was also quite interested in science, which he felt should be based on experience and mathematical calculation. He had contempt for those who spent their time studying Aristotle and his commentators. In these attitudes he demonstrates his dependence upon Marsilio Ficino and the Renaissance Platonists of Florence. Da Vinci left a sizable collection of notebooks which have been scattered in various libraries of Europe. They consist of notes and sketches on various topics: mechanics, anatomy, physics, physiology, and philosophy. They also contain suggestions for machines of all types, such as airplanes, tanks, automatic guns, gears, and parachutes. In addition there are methodological notations on the procedures of scientific inquiry and the processes of nature.

See K. Clark, Leonardo da Vinci (1939), and I.B. Hart, The World of Leonardo da Vinci (1961).