The Man Who Saved ScienceDVD - 2017
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Leonardo’s great dream was to write a book, a series of books, which would unify and transmit the vision he developed over years of research. That, for him, would cement his posterity in a way his fragile paintings could not. He would join the timeless human chorus of the book. There would be a manual of painting, a detailed book of anatomy, a book of mathematics, astronomy, geometry . . . But he never really seemed able to stop and look backwards. New subjects called to him – the movement of water deluges the flight of birds. This project, like so many, went unrealized. Leonardo was the perfect man for his time and his time was perfect for him.
The soul appears to reside in the judicial part and the judicial part seems to be the place where all the senses come together, the sensus communis . . . and the sensus communis is the seat of the soul. Zoroastro In medio vero huius est sensus communis… While Leonardo’s proof of Aristotle’s theories has not stood the test of time, his anatomical drawings have never been surpassed. Sequential views suggest a cinema animation. And views from multiple angles provide a true three-dimensional understanding of the body’s form. His images are never static but animated by a dynamic energy, and seem just on the verge of moving on their own. Leonardo’s illustrations, as precise as his technical drawings of machines, were unequalled in accuracy until the photographic techniques of the 19th century. But they were never published in his lifetime. They remained unknown and unpublished for more than 300 years.
And just as the map of the heavens went unchanged for centuries, so too did the map of the body. Doctors relied on illustrations inherited from ancient Greek and Persian sources. Leonardo would conduct his own medical examinations. Charles Nicholl First sign of Leonardo's actual practical involvement in anatomy and dissection is some wonderful, slightly eerie drawings of a skull, dateable to about 1489. One of the drawings makes it clear that at least one of his interests is to establish by a sort of grid-referencing, the particular location of the “sensus communis”, which is an Aristotelian concept, the communal sense where all the sensory impressions go into the brain and which, was where a man's soul could be found. Leonardo’s first dissections were in search of the soul. His guide: a newly published manual of anatomy by Mondino de Liuzzi, which would remain the authority for 250 years.
“The Sun does not move.” A cryptic phrase, written 100 years before Galileo. But never developed further in his notebooks. A theory of the heavens? Notes for a spectacle? Impossible to say. Leonardo believed that the same force that moved the heavens moved the body: as above, so below. The form of the cosmos was reflected in the human form.
Leonardo was opposed to any kind of imitation: if he copied the work of others it was to learn from it, transform it, enhance it, and send it forward to us as a great gift. Leonardo voice off Human ingenuity will never discover an invention more beautiful, easier or more economical than nature’s, because in her inventions nothing is wanting and nothing is superfluous.
Leonardo turned his attention to the geometry of the night. Ptolemy held that the moon and planets shine with their own light. As a test, Leonardo embarked on an imaginary voyage – he placed himself outside the earth. He realized that moonlight is really reflected sunlight. And that the dim light that makes the body of the moon just visible at crescent is reflected from the earth: earthshine. Any one standing on the moon, when it and the sun are both beneath us, would see our earth and the element of water upon it just as we see the moon, and the earth would light it as the moon lights us.
The earth is not in the centre of the Sun's orbit nor at the centre of the universe, but in the centre of its companion elements, and united with them.
Leonardo’s notes on reflection show he was familiar with Al-Haytham’s Optics, written in 1021 – it’s the source of his interest in the camera obscura, a model of the eye, where a small hole acts as a lens to project a brightly lit exterior on the opposite wall in a darkened room. Leonardo was not a prophet of the future – he discovered a distant past where a much more advanced technology had existed, lost to the West with the fall of Rome.
Although nature begins with reason and ends with experience we must do the opposite: to begin with experience and from this to investigate the reason.
The printing press was invented about the time Leonardo was born. It was a communications revolution – like the internet today. In just 30 years, more books were printed than had been copied in all the Middle Ages. The cost of a book dropped by 80 percent. Books opened a new world for Leonardo – he could read the ancients directly - a source of inspiration that would ignite his scientific impulse.
He learns what he needs to learn for a particular purpose and for a particular situation. And his situation as sort of, as it were, entertainments manager for the Milanese court, might not seem that congenial, put in those terms, but it did enable him to channel all sorts of interests, technical, scientific, engineering interests, as well as the pictorial, a sort of poetic interests that he has as an artist. For the men and women of the Renaissance, there was little difference between technology and magic.
Leonardo's resume: My Most Illustrious Lord I beg leave to present myself to you and to discover to your Excellence my secrets of war. . . I will make covered vehicles, safe and unassailable which will penetrate the enemy and their artillery and there’s no host of armed men so great that they would not break through it. I have also types of cannon most convenient and easily portable with which to hurl small stones almost like a hail storm. And the smoke from the cannon will instil a great fear in the enemy on account of the grave damage and confusion. Where the use of the cannon is impracticable, I will install catapults, mangonels, trebuchets and other instruments of wonderful efficiency not in general use.
Leonardo's resume continued:
(Leonardo had never seen war - but he knew the labor market: military engineers were in high demand. Still, he adds a footnote… ) What’s more I’m a sculptor. I can execute figures in bronze, marble and clay. Likewise in painting, I can do everything possible as well as any other, whosoever he may be. I’m the man you need .
They will say that I, having no literary skill, cannot properly express that which I desire to treat of, but they do not know that my subjects are to be dealt with by experience rather than by words. Though I may not, like them, be able to quote other authors, I shall rely on that which is much greater and more worthy: on experience, the mistress of their masters.
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