Leonardo Davinci is widely regarded as one of the greatest minds to have ever lived. A genius artist, inventor, architect, mathematician, scientist, engineer and musician — among many other things — he produced some of the most prized works of art in the world, invented the bicycle and the hydraulic pump, and specialized in everything from cartography to the construction of mechanical animals.
His many drawings included designs of the helicopter (keep in mind this is the 1400’s we’re talking about here), tank, calculator, solar power, and even the rudiments of what we now know as plate tectonics. He even designed a movable bridge for the Duke of Milan.
All in all, his life was a testament the spirit of the Renaissance itself and continues to astound — even well into the 21st century — with the sheer breadth and depth of his talent and all that he accomplished during his lifetime.
Yet there are a few facts about his life that most people never really hear about, simply because they’re, well, not so astounding.
Yet they’re still interesting, given who he was. Upon finding them out, they tend to make us realize that even one of the most talented people in history was still, simply, human.
Here are 5 surprising things you may have in common with Leonardo Davinci.
1) He was “illegitimate” and homeschooled.
Not saying you’re illegitimate. Or homeschooled, for that matter. Just pointing out that many of us have backgrounds that are considered less than ‘normal’ by society, whatever they may be.
Leonardo was no exception. He was born out of wedlock to a peasant woman and a notary (lawyer) and had no formal education (unlike many of the other renaissance greats) being taught Latin, geometry and mathematics at home.
He apparently spent much of his time as a child outside, in nature, which would’ve undoubtedly had an influence on both his curiosity and imagination.
2) He was a little crazy.
Aren’t we all? While there are many accounts of Leonardo being described, of course, in exceptionally flattering ways, he was also apparently quite secretive (particularly about his sex life) to a degree that may have bordered on paranoia.
He was also dyslexic and ambidextrous, possessing the ability to draw forwards with one hand whilst simultaneously writing backwards with the other (!!!), leaving his journals notoriously difficult to decipher.
3) He wasn’t good at finishing things.
Yup, one of history’s most prolific personalities was somewhat of a procrastinator. Either that or his curiosities were so numerous he simply couldn’t stay focused on one thing at a time, leaving a trail of unfinished projects behind him when he died.
In fact, he failed to finish his very first two commissions (no small projects, either — one was to paint an altarpiece for the Chapel of St. Bernard in the Palazzo Vecchio, the other The Adoration of the Magi for the monks of San Donato a Scopeto) and it apparently took him nearly 4 years to perfect Mona Lisa’s lips.
4) He was an animal lover and vegetarian.
Now, I’m not automatically assuming that you’re a vegetarian, or even that you should be. (No one should be going around telling anyone else what to eat, unless the question has been specifically asked, of course.) And maybe you hate animals, who knows?
But at a certain point, as recorded in his journals, Leonardo stopped eating meat, due to his divining that it was not particularly necessary for health and also because of his great love of all animals. He even had a habit of purchasing caged birds and releasing them back into the wild…
5) He kind of knew that intelligent design wasn’t a thing.
Most of us, in this day and age, understand that intelligent design isn’t really a ‘thing’ anymore. In the face of the theory of evolution (for which there are reams of empirical evidence) the opposing idea simply doesn’t hold that much water.
Though an artist through and through, Leonardo was also a scientist, and a healthy amount of skepticism is part of that whole bag. Through studies of river erosion, Davinci came to the conclusion that the planet was actually much older than the Bible suggests.