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Leonardo da Vinci is known as a supreme artist, the creator of some of the most famous works in history. What is less known is that he was only a part-time artist.
His relentless curiosity to understand the world drove him to study nature, make careful observations, seek mathematical proofs, and record all his findings. Some of his discoveries prefigured achievements we associate with Galileo, Newton, and Darwin. He even predicted entire sciences not to be formally invented for centuries. With unrivaled drafting skills, he created mechanical drawings for futuristic technology and anatomical studies that would never be equaled.
When he created his miraculous paintings, he imbued them with his scientific passions—his intuitive knowledge of optics, geology, hydrology, and mathematics. Leonardo was in the business of inventing the future. But since he never published his discoveries, he did not materially influence it.
Physicist, artist, and author Bulent Atalay looks at Leonardo’s grand achievements as a creator who approached science through art and art through science—and the tragedy of his long-unheralded status as a visionary.
Atalay is a professor emeritus at the University of Mary Washington, adjunct professor at the University of Virginia, and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He is the author of Math and the Mona Lisa and Leonardo's Universe.