5 Of Da Vinci's Most Ingenious Inventions I Oxford Open Learning
Da Vinci

5 Of Da Vinci’s Most Ingenious Inventions

Leonardo Da Vinci is the artist best known for paintings such as the enigmatic, ‘Mona Lisa’ and the poignant, ‘The Last Supper. But he was also a sculptor, architect, engineer, scientist, and inventor. We have to say “inventor”, reservedly, but not due to a lack of brilliance, because the scientific fundamentals behind his inventions were sound. However, he was so far ahead of his time that the scientific materials and construction expertise required to test many of his ideas did not yet exist, so he was unable to even attempt to make them a reality. He was, therefore, more of a conceptual inventor – and here are 5 of his greatest ideas.

The Helicopter, But Not As We Know It!

Da Vinci formulated the idea of a helicopter some four centuries before it came into being. But rather than having flat rotor blades that act like aircraft wings, (as with modern helicopters), Da Vinci’s blade was screw-like in shape, vertical in orientation, and spiralling around a central axis. The aerial screw spins and pushes air downwards, propelling the craft upward, assuming a rotational force strong enough to displace air of greater mass than the craft itself. The design concept is considered sound, and in 2020 proof of concept was achieved by a research team that achieved flight with a drone fitted with Da Vinci’s screw blades!

The Parachute

In Da Vinci’s now famous science journal, Codex Atlanticus, he sketched a contraption that looks similar to a parachute, made from reinforced cloth and wooden poles and designed to be 12 arms wide and 12 tall. It would allow a man to leap off a high structure without getting hurt. Again, however, Da Vinci did not appear to test this one, even though construction may have been plausible. In more recent times, though, skydiver Adrian Nicholas did, by jumping out of an air balloon from 10,000 feet in a Lifesize replica of Da Vinci’s parachute. He reported a smooth descent and lived to tell the tale!

Self-Supporting Bridge

Da Vinci invented a fascinating self-supporting wooden bridge constructed out of several notched wooden poles and interlocking beams. It could be erected quickly without the need for bolts, screws, or any form of fastening and was designed to help armies cross rivers. Historians are not sure if it was put into practice. Proof of concept has been achieved with a modern incarnation of it having been made in Denmark.

Da Vinci’s Diving Suit

Da Vinci’s diving suit would have had breathing hoses in the helmet connected to a floating bell of air, and the users would be wearing face masks with goggles so they could see underwater. This was to be a military invention used to sink enemy ships from underwater by cutting holes in their wooden hulls. It was never constructed or tested in anger. Experts suggest that the design concept was sound, however.

Mechanical Knights

Leonardo was also thought to have designed and constructed a “mechanical knight”, operated by a series of pulleys and cables that could stand, sit, raise its visor, and move its arms. This mechanical knight has been faithfully reconstructed and was shown to be fully functional. While promising, these physically limited initial beta prototypes may have needed some refining before being effective in battle!


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I am a practising HR consultant working with several start-ups on an ongoing and ad-hoc basis in the London and M4 area, and am a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development or CIPD. I am the Director of thecareercafe.co.uk; thecareercafe.co.uk is a resource for start-ups and small business. It includes a blog containing career advice, small business advice articles, HR software reviews, and contains great resources such as HR Productivity Apps.

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