The British Library Homepage
homeHome  >   Online Gallery  >   Online exhibitions  >   Features  >   Leonardo da Vinci > His insights
 
print

Leonardo's insights

Extract from Leonardo's notebook known as the Codex Arundel.
© The British Library. British Library, Arundel MS 263.

Leonardo devoted most of his life to understanding nature. He used experimentation and careful observation to master drawing and painting and his aesthetic eye and creative mind to make scientific observations.

His notebooks combine detailed observation with notes of experiments. Even if he did not actually undertake the experiments, he described what could be tried. Many of his insights foreshadowed scientific research by many centuries. For example:

  • Leonardo repudiated perpetual motion, understood the principle of relative motion, and foreshadowed Newton's Third Law by two centuries: 'For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction'.
  • He rejected the notion that the Biblical flood was responsible for depositing fossils many miles from their origin and deduced the existence of very long spans of geological time.
  • By dissecting humans and animals, Leonardo made many anatomical and some physiological discoveries.
  • He investigated optics and perception with subtle experiments, explaining why the sky is blue, arguing that light has a finite velocity and travels in straight lines, and deducing the existence of a surface within the eye that receives light from a wide field of view.
  • Leonardo formulated the law of the flow of currents: 'All motion of water of uniform breadth and surface is stronger at one place than at another according as the water is shallower there than at the other'.
Main Main
His life His life
His insights
Diving apparatus Diving apparatus
Parachute Parachute
Glider Glider
Turning the Pages Turning the Pages
 
 
 
Discover more:
Main Main
His life His life
His insights
Diving apparatus Diving apparatus
Parachute Parachute
Glider Glider
Turning the Pages Turning the Pages
   
 
Accessibility Terms of use Site map
Copyright The British Library Board