Leonardo da Vinci: Restless Renaissance Rebel
By Hillary Jade, Program Manager
When Leonardo da Vinci is mentioned, either in an academic setting or in a casual conversation, one of several knee-jerk references usually comes to mind:
- His inventions
- The Mona Lisa
- The Vitruvian Man, his painstakingly accurate depiction of the human form
- His influence on the Renaissance as a whole
What is more fascinating about da Vinci than his singular achievements, however, is that his portfolio of accomplishments – both achieved and never fully realized – spans more disciplines and fields than any other inventor, scientist, artist or influencer either before or since. (They don’t call him The Renaissance Man for nothing!)
Not one to rest on his laurels, da Vinci is oft quoted as having said, “Learning never exhausts the mind.” Did you know he is widely considered to be the father of architecture, paleontology, ichnology and dabbled – with varying intensity – in invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history and cartography?
Simply put, da Vinci loved water and anything associated with it. Though they never came to fruition in his lifetime, da Vinci developed plans for a SCUBA-like underwater breathing device, a life preserver, a diving bell and floating snowshoes.
This fall, Academy is running an NAGC award-winning curriculum course on sustainability, developed by Yunasa Fellow Shelagh Gallagher, called It’s Electrifying! Fueling the Future, which focuses on alternative forms of energy, including wave energy and tidal energy.
He also studied the erosion of rivers in Europe and figured out that the earth is older than previously believed, based on a scientific investigation of water and soil samples, maps and journals. Though discredited at the time, due to the cultural climate, da Vinci’s findings were eventually deemed accurate.
Is your child interested in learning about the universe’s origin, evolution and current structure? Check out IEA Academy instructor Tristan Murphy’s new class From Dust to Dawn: Constructing the History of the Universe, where students will gain a comprehensive understanding of our universe’s complex development into what it is today.
da Vinci was a creative writer – not in the style or vocabulary he chose, but in the physical act of writing he executed. He wrote most of his work from right to left – the opposite of traditional written print. The result of this writing was a mirror script, which was difficult for most people to read. Historians have postulated that he did so intentionally, in order to keep his writing secret, though it may be simply because he was left-handed, making this unusual writing style was easier.
Check out Academy’s Saturday class Page One: Creative Writing for an opportunity to delve into language, style, and genre – and possibly the chance to develop your own mirror script!
Flight was another big area of focus for da Vinci, who is credited as being the first person to study the flight of birds scientifically. He spent considerable time delving into the field of ornithology and used what he observed and analyzed as inspiration to try and replicate wings and flying apparatuses for humans using biomimicry. One of da Vinci’s designs that he never got off the ground (no pun intended) was the parachute. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that a South African skydiver finally tested da Vinci’s design by developing a prototype based on his sketches.
Is your child interested in similar types of STEAM constructs? Be sure to have them join the Tuesday afternoon course STEAM Building: Creative Constructs, where students will design and test things such as marble runs, catapults, parachutes, spaghetti bridges, and much more. Or, have your child try Inventioneers, a class based on genius inventors like da Vinci, where students will play the dual role of inventor and engineer and come up with their own genius invention!
da Vinci believed that sight was mankind’s most important sense, which is why he focused so heavily on art, architecture, biological studies, sketching and the written word. He is quoted as saying, “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt.”
Does your child have a knack for design and visuals? Do they enjoy creating appealing graphics and imagery? Be sure to sign them up for Web Design II: Form and Function on Monday evenings, where students will gain the skills needed to transform their own personally-designed website from functional to fabulous.
Though da Vinci’s list of accomplishments and endeavors may seem overwhelming, there’s no denying that his is truly a canon of inspiration and motivation. For more information on Genius Day X: Da Vinci: Restless Renaissance Rebel, visit the event webpage. This exciting day of learning is open to students in grades 4-8 and will take place at the breathtaking Getty Center on September 30th.
To view Academy course descriptions and register for fall courses, visit the Academy webpage. Apply by August 27th!
What is your favorite work from da Vinci? Tell us in the comments!