PatentWear’s da Vinci Flight design honors the world’s best-known Renaissance man whose visionary inventions—both imagined and eventually realized sometimes hundreds of years after his initial conceptions were sketched—are a powerful testament to the potential that a single human mind can hold.
Until the nineteenth century, Leonardo da Vinci was generally known as a painter. It was only after 1800 that the record of his intellectual and technical accomplishments, the thousands of pages of writings and drawings that we collectively refer to today as Leonardo’s codices, began to surface. With the rediscovery of the Leonardo codices, the artist who painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper was recast as the Renaissance visionary who saw the modern world before it was realized.
Among the many subjects Leonardo studied, the possibility of human mechanical flight held particular fascination. He produced more than 35,000 words and 500 sketches dealing with flying machines, the nature of air, and bird flight. These notes are scattered throughout the many da Vinci codices and manuscript collections, but he did produce one short codex almost entirely on the subject in 1505-1506, the Codice sul volo degli uccelli (Codex on the Flight of Birds).
Given his close observance and use of nature as a foundation for many of his ideas, emulating natural flight was an obvious place to begin. Most of Leonardo’s aeronautical designs were ornithopters, machines that employed flapping wings to generate both lift and propulsion. Imaginative as these designs were, the fundamental barrier to an ornithopter is the demonstrably limited muscle power and endurance of humans compared to birds. Leonardo could never have overcome this basic fact of human physiology.
Yet, in less than 20 pages of notes and drawings, the Codex on the Flight of Birds outlines a number of observations and beginning concepts that would find a place in the development of a successful airplane in the early twentieth century—although Leonardo did not develop the insights he recorded in the Codex on the Flight of Birds in any practical way. Nonetheless, centuries before any real progress toward a practical flying machine was achieved, the seeds of the ideas that would lead to humans spreading their wings germinated in the mind of da Vinci. In aeronautics, as with so many of the subjects he studied, he strode where no one had before. Leonardo lived a fifteenth century life, but a vision of the modern world spread before his mind’s eye.
~Dr. Peter L. Jakab, Chief Curator, Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum