Graziano and Raulin (8th ed)Graziano & Raulin
Research Methods (8th edition)

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a renaissance artist, scientist, and engineer. 

The Renaissance in Western Europe (about 1300-1600) was a time of transition from medieval to modern life. It saw upheaval and change and a loosening of the old certainties of the Middle Ages. Humanism flourished--its values invested in the physical and moral well being of human life, rather than on notions of an "after-life." Life--understanding, improving, and celebrating it--was pursued through momentous developments in virtually all aspects of human creativity.

Leonardo da Vinci blended science and art during the Renaissance in remarkable ways. His education was ordinary, but he did manage to obtain solid training in natural sciences, painting, and music. He even invented a new musical instrument. He was apprenticed in his adolescence to a famous painter, Verocchio, and within ten years was a recognized master himself.

Leonardo studied anatomy to enhance his art, but eventually became absorbed in the study of anatomy for its own sake. Going far beyond the artistic study of the human body, he developed detailed knowledge and drawings of the major human systems--skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, and genitourinary. He also studied the stages of embryologic development . These studies reflect the meticulously detailed observation required in both art and science. 

Leonardo also studied comparative anatomy--dissecting animal bodies and making detailed examinations and drawings. He was the first great medical illustrator (Gross, 1997). His studies of bird wings illustrate both his artistry, observing and recording them in detailed drawings, and his science, trying to understand the biology and mechanics of the bird's wing, such as which muscles control which actions, and what happens to the particular limbs, joints, and feathers during the action of flying. His study of bird wings led to plans for a flying machine (500 years ago!).

Leonardo possessed great skills in science, technology, and art, and was always seeking to integrate these diverse skills. At 32, he wrote to Lodovico Sforza, Milan's tyrant ruler, seeking employment. He claimed to be a proficient military and a civil engineer, mathematician, architect, and sculptor. It was a time of political upheaval and wars between Italy’s city-states. Milan was a powerful city-state, and Leonardo, wanting to pursue his art, sought the patronage of Lodovico. He reasoned that someone involved in constant militaristic upheaval, like Lodovico, would be attracted by his claim to being a military engineer. He was correct and was hired.

In Milan and later in Florence, Leonardo’s creativity was far ranging. He helped develop military fortifications, designed tank-like war machines, an apparatus for troops to breathe under water, a submarine, and a crop irrigation system. He sculpted a huge model for a monumental equestrian statue. Unfortunately, the statue was never completed, because bronze was needed to make cannons. He drew plans for buildings and monuments, pursued studies of mathematics and anatomy, and made detailed observations of fossils, river movements, and rock strata. The latter, as described by Gould (1997), led him to brilliant conclusions that modern paleontologists would not develop for another 300 years! As if all of that were not enough, this monumental scientist also created magnificent works of art, including The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa.

Leonardo's work seamlessly integrated science and art. His artistic labor alternated continuously with his scientific inquiry. Although many have been lost, more than 5,000 sheets of drawings and notes survive, scattered in libraries around the world (Gross, 1997). He exemplified the affinity of art and science in pursuit of understanding nature. There were no arbitrary divisions between science and art in this Renaissance genius.

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