Leonardo Da Vinci is famous for painting the Mona Lisa, but he was also an inventor and mechanical engineer. He designed machines and contraptions which would have been very difficult to actually build during the Renaissance. In the 21st century, however, some of these designs may find modern equivalents, such as the following.
While Da Vinci was working on a project in Venice, the City of Water, it is said that he conceptually developed a diving suit that has similar functions as the modern scuba gear. He envisioned it as military equipment that could be used for marine-based ambush on enemy vessels.
This scuba gear prototype was made of leather with a bag-like mask that goes over the diver’s head. The nose area of the mask was fitted with two cane tubes leading up to a cork diving bell that floats on the water’s surface, where the opening of the tubes provides air to the diver below. The mask also had a valve-operated balloon which can be inflated or deflated to aid the diver when sinking or surfacing. Interestingly enough, Da Vinci designed a separate compartment within the suit for its wearer to urinate in. An account of this suit being successfully made and used in the 15th century is yet to be found.
Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, was one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s wealthy patrons. To help the duke’s kitchen staff prepare for a banquet, Da Vinci designed several innovations, including a series of conveyor belts, a massive oven, and a semi-automated sprinkler system in case a fire breaks out.
Although this kitchen innovation did not remain conceptual, it caused quite a disaster when put to use. The huge oven started a small fire, to which the sprinkler system responded a bit too well and flooded the kitchen, washing the food away. Perhaps due to this incident, the mechanisms of this kitchen plan is relatively unknown. Although we have modern sprinkler systems that could still soak an entire room, we also have dry sprinkler systems powered by a nitrogen generator to avoid this kind of calamity.
The flying machine or the ornithopter may be one of the most famous advanced designs made by Da Vinci. He envisioned it as a wooden frame with a pair of wings amounting to a wingspan of more than 33 ft. The frame was supposed to be made of light, sturdy pine wood, and fitted with raw silk. To power this mechanism, the pilot must operate a rod-and-pulley system to control the wings, while using pedals bolstered by a hand crank to increase the energy output. There is also a headpiece that the pilot can use to steer the machine.
This contraption is similar to aircraft we know today. But unlike the modern aircraft, the ornithopter has no engine to get it off the ground. Despite this drawback, it is widely believed that the machine could still have flown mid-air.
Leonardo Da Vinci had a lot of other designs that has modern-day counterparts. A few, including his design for an ideal city, remain unfulfilled to this day. Although some of his designs were far too advanced to function smoothly during his time, the mere fact that he was able to come up with them is testament to his renowned genius.