Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I had a a wonderful visit today at the Buffalo Museum of Science. The Museum is hosting and exhibit of 30 machines that were created based on illustrations from the Codices of Leonardo da Vinci. I went to the exhibit with my wife, my son and his girl friend. We had a great time. Many of the exhibits were also interactive so we could turn a crank or work a lever or gear to put the machine in motion. For me, it was an opportunity of a lifetime to actually see some of the machines that Leonardo has imagined over 400 hundred years ago.

All of the machines were created by a team of scientists, engineers and craftsman from the very city where Leonardo has imagined most of these machines: Florence, Italy. The exhibit has been displayed across Europe and is now on display at the Buffalo Museum of Science until August 28th. I would urge anyone who has an interest in science, technology, Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance or simply to marvel and wonder at the sheer genius of imagination to see this exhibit. It is not just for children, it is for the child like wonder in us all.

This is Leonardo's idea of a self powered glider.

Leonardo designed this machine to lift heavy columns into place. Read the description below.
This is Leonardo's Worm Gear, centuries before anyone else thought of it.

This is one of Leonardo's war machines, the precursor to the machine gun.

Leonardo's design for a tank.

Maybe it was the violence and destruction that Leonardo witnessed as the result of the weapons that he created during his service for Cesar Borgia that caused him to keep all of his ideas secret until his death an beyond. Accord ing to Paul Strathern in his book,The Artist, the Philosopher and the Warrior: Leonardo, Machiavelli and Borgia - a fateful collusion, this is the reason that we never discovered most of Leonardo's ideas until hundreds of years later. This was an insightful book about a short period of time when Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli were in the service of Cesar Borgia. If it had been otherwise, western civilization might look much different today...then again, maybe not.

There is so much to see at this exhibit. I only showed a few of the machines. There is not enough room here to even begin to describe the degree of craftsmanship that is demonstrated in this exhibit. Go see it before August 28th! Go see for yourself.

 I just found out that the Ontario Science Center is hosting the Da Vinci exhibit from October 13th to March 18th, 2012.If you did not get a chance to see the exhibit in Buffalo here is your chance to see in Toronto at the Ontario Science Center.

If you truly interested in Leonardo da Vinci as an artist, engineer and scientist then you will want to read some of the excellent books that have been published about him. I can recommend two books that I have read recently.

 1) Leonardo by Martin Kemp. This is a book written by an art historian who has lived with the ghost of Leonardo da Vinci looming large in his life. Kemp has an understanding of Leonardo that offers the rest of us rare insights into one of the greatest geniuses in history. This is a portrait of an extraordinary man cast in a light never seen before.

2) Leonardo's Legacy by Stefan Klein is another excellent book. Unlike Martin Kemp who is an expert in Leonardo da Vinci, Stefan Klein is a science writer. He wrote a best seller called The Science of Happiness. Klein looks at Leonardo da Vinci as a scientist and explains how his visual approach to  viewing and interpreting the world lead to many of his revolutionary and futuristic ideas. Many of the machines that are on exhibit in the Machines in Motion exhibit are discussed in this book. If you have seen the exhibit then this book is an excellent companion and helps explain the significance of the machines that are on exhibit.

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