Leonardo da Vinci was perhaps one of the smartest men that ever lived. With an IQ estimated between 180 and 190, da Vinci had a diverse amount of knowledge on multiple subjects (Pettinger). He lived centuries ahead of his time and is regarded as one of the most influential people during the Renaissance. He is also considered one of the greatest painters of all time and many of his works have been preserved for people in the twenty-first century to admire. Da Vinci's beginnings were humble and his education was poor, yet his importance in the world cannot be underestimated. He was an inventor among many things and definitely left important drawings and information through his drawings and notebooks.

Personal Background

Leonardo Da Vinci was born in April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy (Zimmermann). He was born the illegitimate son of a Florentine noble named Ser Piero da Vinci and a peasant woman Caterina (Pettinger). In 1466, Da Vinci’s father apprenticed him to Andrea del Verrocchio. His father believed Da Vinci had great potential as an artist so he tried to help him by leaving him with Verrocchio. In 1474, he became the member of the Guild of Saint Luke at only 22. After Da Vinci completed his six year internship with Verrocchio, he remained as an assistant and helped him paint Baptism of Christ in 1475 (Zimmermann). In 1476, he was accused of sodomy in Florence, but was later acquitted from lack of evidence (Pettinger). In 1478, Da Vinci becameMona_Lisa.jpg an independent artist and painted Adoration of the Magi, for San Donato, a Scopeto monastery (Zimmermann). He left this painting unfinished because he left Florence to work for the Duke of Milan as an engineer, painter, architect, and sculptor. He began to work on a bronze statue for twelve years to honor dynasty founder Francesco Sforza, however, war interfered and he was unable to finish it. During the 1490s, he became interested in architecture, mechanics, and human anatomy. He also made many drawings of “flying machines”, bicycles, fetuses, and the human skeleton (Zimmermann). DA Vinci completed very few works because he was always distracted by other things (Bambach). From 1492 to 1498, Da Vinci worked on the Last Supper, which was painted on the dining room wall of the of the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery in Milan (Zimmermann). In the early 1500s, Da Vinci also painted his famous Mona Lisa using Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo as his subject (Zimmermann). It is believed that Lisa del Giocondo never smiled but one day she gave a faint smile and Da Vinci was able to capture it (Pettinger). In 1506, Da Vinci traveled back to Milan where he worked for French King Lois XII until 1510 (Pettinger). Throughout the years, Da Vinci dissected many corpses as he enjoyed learning about the human body. By 1508, it is believed Da Vinci had conducted more than 10 human dissections. Nine years later, he recorded to have dissected over 30 human bodies. Among these bodies, he dissected pregnant women to study the fetuses of children. His drawings of a fetus, skull, and human skeletal system are fairly accurate are much more advance than anyone from his time (Sooke). He also has drawings of helicopters which were not invented until centuries later. His notebooks include drawings of parachutes and the philosophy that will is the energy of life (Woods). In 1513, he travelled to Rome where he worked with artists like Michelangelo and Raphael (Pettinger). Three years later, he was invited by ruler Francis I of France to settle at the Château of Cloux, near Amboise, France (Zimmermann). He finally died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux of old age (Pettinger).

Personality Traits

da_vinci_470x306.jpgDa Vinci loved challenges. He constantly challenged himself by learning about new subjects which usually distracted him from finishing his projects (Napolitano). He even wrote some of his notes in a complex mirror handwriting because it was more difficult for his brain to process (Pettinger). He strived for perfection in whatever project he began which caused him to never finish his paintings. Da Vinci also often self-criticized himself, which made him lose interest in any projects he believed were not good enough. He was a curious man and tried to learn about anything that interested him. Da Vinci loved nature and was one of the very few vegetarians during his time. He believed eating animals was immoral because they it was not necessary to consume them in order to survive. There were also a few times in which he bought caged birds from the market to later release them for his own enjoyment (Napolitano). He was an ambitious man who tried to create “flying machines” and made many scientific discoveries. He was interested in anatomy and drew drawings of the human body. Other fields he was interested in were medicine, which would have revolutionized science if his studies were published (Pettinger). He was a free thinker and held no prejudices which made him see the world differently. Da Vinci was an intelligent man with a vast amount of knowledge on many subjects. He aimed to master whatever interest he pursued and is considered as the “Renaissance Man” because of his many achievements (Napolitano).


Leonardo Da Vinci faced multiple obstacles during his life, however, he did not let any of them interfere with his work. In one of his many notebooks, Da Vinci wrote, “Obstacles cannot crush me; every obstacle yields to stern resolve.” He was a problem solver and never let any of his issues get in the way of achieving something he desired (Napolitano). One of the many obstacles he faced in his life was being born the illegitimate son of a Florentine noble and a peasant woman. He received little education as a child born out of wedlock, but his father realized Da Vinci’s intelligence at a young age so he was apprenticed. Da Vinci left his father when he was about fourteen or fifteen which would have been a difficulty since he was merely a child. At the age of twenty- two, he was also accused of sodomy, which was a great offense and punishable by death or life imprisonment (Pettinger). Another great obstacle in Da Vinci’s life was the Roman Catholic Church because of its strict rules and moralistic opinions. Da Vinci was a scientist and dissected many cadavers to learn about and illustrate the human body. This was considered immoral and against the church, which meant that he could have been jailed for defiling a human corpse. As a scientist, he also believed that Earth had been created over a long period of time instead of the “biblical” age of Earth which was about 4,000 years (Woods). Da Vinci went through many obstacles to become successful, and he was able to gain success even with his low status as an illegitimate son of a notary and peasant.

Historical Significance

Leonardo da Vinci was a man of great importance during the Renaissance and continues to be important today. He achieved many things throughout his lifetime and is known as one of the most brilliant men that ever lived. He excelled in many different subjects and was a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, inventor, musician, scientist, mathematician, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer. He left many of his notebooks filled with drawings that depict all of his inventions and thoughts. Since his death, there have been a plethora of people who have read and learned from his notes. His advanced mind was able to anticipate the helicopter, which was not images.jpegcreated until five centuries later during World War 2. He also invented the calculator, concentrated solar power, and an outlined rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Da Vinci achieved great fame during his time although he faced many obstacles. He also became known as the “Renaissance Man” for the variety of things he accomplished (Napolitano). He is one of the greatest painters of all time and has influenced artists all around the world. He developed the use of Chiaroscuro. This technique defined forms through the contrast of light and shadow and was used in the Mona Lisa (Pettinger). In addition, Da Vinci planned the tunneling of mountains and the connecting of rivers through canals. He also made many scientific discoverieleonardo-da-vinci-helicopter.jpgs. One of these discoveries was Copernicus’ theory of the movement of the earth. He also developed Lamarck’s classification of animals into vertebrates and invertebrates. Other scientific discoveries he made are the laws of optics, gravitation, heat and light, which would have been difficult to discover without the use of advanced technology (Woods). Da Vinci’s notebooks also have drawings of the human skeleton so detailed and precise that they are almost an exact match of what scientists have discovered today. He made a glass model of the valves of a heart and his descriptions were almost entirely correct (Sooke). His notebooks also have warfare inventions like the tank and parachute which were not actually built until the beginning of World War 2. Da Vinci’s mind also developed a dialectical philosophy, in which will was said to be the energy of life. This philosophy expresses the meaning of his own life because he achieved much more than what several normal lifetimes could ever accomplish (Woods). Approximately 6,500 surviving sheets from his notebooks were dispersed centuries after his death. Around 1690, most of his anatomical studies were held in the Royal Collection, where they laid unpublished until the end of the 19th century. Da Vinci never published any of his inventions or discoveries, so they did had no impact on the history of science. However, this does not lessen the significance or impact he had on the world. He was able to push the limits of science beyond what anyone else could imagine. He also left many of his notebooks, which people have studied to understand his mind better. Da Vinci is still remembered today and is regarded as one of the most significant historical figures because of his paintings and scientific discoveries even if he was unable to publish them because of political turmoil and plague in France (Sooke).


Bambach, Carmen. “Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2000. Web. 15 September 2014.

Napolitano, Ann. “Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).” Ann Napolitano. 2011. Web. 20 November 2014.

Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Leonardo da Vinci.” Biography Online. 2014. Web. 20 September 2014.

Sooke, Alastair. “Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy of an artist.” The Telegraph. 2013. Web. 4 November 2014.

Woods, Alan. “Leonardo da Vinci: artist, thinker and revolutionary.” International Marxist Tendency. 04 May 2012. Web. 11 December 2014.

Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “Leonardo da Vinci: Facts & Biography.” LiveScience. 2013. Web. 15 October 2014.