Exhibition: 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci – Exhibition inventions of a “genius”


On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, an exhibition on this genius and his inventions are organised in Liège until this weekend. After various stops in Europe, the exhibition has settled in the “City on the Meuse river”.

It highlights 120 models made on the basis of drawings and sketches of the genius. These models were made by a Belgian team of engineers, historians, graphic designers and craftsmen.

The Exhibition runs until May 12th, 2019 in Liège.

At the same time, engineer, painter, botanist, town planner and so on, Leonardo da Vinci will have left behind 6,000 documents and notes with drawings of his inventions and researches.

Of course, the world of aeronautics has not been forgotten. Leonardo da Vinci has invented the concept of the propeller, then the idea of the parachute and also the concepts of helicopter and glider.

Leonardo da Vinci often combined his studies on air with those he conducted regarding water. For instance, he studied sea waves to understand indirectly how water behaved, or animals belonging to two environments, such as the flying fish, to get inspired for his inventions. The great difference between his researches in hydraulics and in aeronautics was certainly the concrete application of his inventions. Whereas research studies relating to water led to numerous orders, it appeared that his work on flying machines elicited only the personal interest of the engineers without attracting the attention of potential customers.

A few examples of the sketches as seen on site at the exhibition :

Interest in enabling man to fly stretches farther back in human history than the work of Leonardo da Vinci. However, he was the one to broach the subject from a scientific angle, with two distinct phases identified by specialists. In the first such phase, in the years 1480-1490, he studied mainly man, his anatomy, proportions and mechanics. In the subsequent phase, after 1500, he particularly focused his studies on the animal world and the propensity of certain animals to master the art of flying. It was at this time, for instance, that he produced the Codex on the flight of birds, in which he analysed the flying techniques of those animals meticulously on 18 sheets.

The drawings of flying utility machines that date from the first period were essentially focused on the capacity of the human body to produce energy. Thus, the ornithopter project that Leonardo developed in the last quarter of the 15th century made little reference to the animal kingdom by presenting a pilot with wings placed on a hemispherical shell. Leonardo had understood that the strength of the arms did not suffice to enable man to fly and therefore imagined an entire system of cranks and sheaves to multiply the forces and capitalise on the energy of the arms, legs, and even movements of the pilot’s head, but evidently without worrying about how to guide this engine. The machine was unlikely to fly because the materials available at the time were inadequate and the machine would have weighed 300 kg. The first human-powered aircraft that successfully crossed the English Channel (in 1979) weighed only 90 kg. Although the flight of birds was more complex than he had imagined, however, his invention was very close to reality.

For the parachute, during Antiquity as well as in Chinese and Arab culture, cases of jumps are set, in general from a tower, braked by means of ad hoc devices (kite, canvas supported, etc…). It is reported that during the Renaissance period, the Croatian engineer Fausto Veranzio made a jump from one of the towers of Venice. Leonardo da Vinci also drew the first draft of a parachute.

A few examples of the sketches and mockups as seen on site at the exhibition :

Once again, Leonardo’s imagination ran up against the technical limitations of his time, essentially, in this case, the inability to generate sufficient energy. The principle imagined at the late 15th – early 16th centuries hadn’t been forgotten, until the studies conducted by the mathematician Alexis Paucton at the end of the 18th century, and after him, the works by two Frenchmen, Launoy and Bienvenu.

A few examples of the sketches and mockups as seen on site at the exhibition :

The Italian genius was also interested in war. He was a complex man and given the number of drawings devoted to the art of war, we cannot deny his interest in this field. The time during which he lived was a succession of armed conflicts that shook the Italian peninsula. Many images are enshrined in the collective imagination when it comes to military weaponry and engines. The most famous certainly include the invention of the tank, which Leonardo was already touting in his letter to the Duke of Milan around 1482. This tank remained at the design stage because of the many difficulties he could not overcome.

As we can see Leonardo da Vinci touched on many scientific branches and this exhibition shows us the extent of his genius with aeronautical and other inventions that are currently in our lives today.

The Exhibition runs until May 12th, 2019 in Liège.

After Liège, the exhibition will head to Barcelona, Spain.

Cour des Mineurs
Musée de la Vie wallonne
4000 LIÈGE


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