Leonardo was born in Vinci, near Florence, the illegitimate son
of a Florentine lawyer and a young country girl. He was brought up
in his father's house and around the age of 15 was apprenticed to
the artist Andrea del Verrochio.
About 1482 he left Florence to work primarily as a military and
naval engineer for the Duke of Milan. Leonardo recorded his studies
in illustrated notebooks covering: painting, architecture, hydraulics,
engineering, physics, mechanics, astronomy optics and human anatomy.
In 1499 after the invasion of Milan by the French he left and worked
In 1516 Francis I of France appointed Leonardo 'Premier Painter
and Engineer and Architect to the King', a position he held until
his death in 1519.
Leonardo was explicit about protecting intellectual property: 'Do
not teach your knowledge and you alone will excel'. When he wants
to hide his ideas, he leaves out details or only alludes to them.
While his drawings of machines look impressive, could they really
work? Was he just a dreamer?
For the 2003 BBC One television series Leonardo, experts were commissioned
to build and test a glider, a parachute and a diving suit based on