Tuesday, July 30, 2013

22. Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci, who lived around 1500-something, is remembered for two things - scribbling down a lot of very clever ideas in a notebook in back-to-front writing, and for painting the Mona Lisa, the most famous portrait ever, with its enigmatic smile... personally I think she looks a little smug.
The clever ideas: Along with other things, his notebooks contain sketched ideas for how to build helicopters, gliders, and (just to show he was thinking ahead) parachutes. Although somewhat underdeveloped - the helicopter sketch shows a big helical propeller being pushed round in circles by four big chunky blokes - a tough way to get it up to the required speed - the principles are sound. But none of these ideas get beyond a first draft. If he'd built the helicopter he might have deduced that air is too thin for a man-powered helix to act upon effectively, but that it would have a fighting chance in water if you had some sort of gearing system in place. He might then have gone on to invent some sort of pedalo, in which case he could have set up a franchise operation all down the Italian Riviera, but there's no record of him doing any such thing. (Actually I'm guessing there but I think it's a safe bet.)
So it seems to me that, genius though he was, he just wasn't a completer-finisher.
Clearly he kept getting distracted by something. Perhaps that's what that cheeky smile is all about.
Maybe if he'd had a shed....

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