“The Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci”

"The Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci," an exhibition featuring sixteen contemporary models of mechanical devices conceived and designed by Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci, will open in the Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum of Hampden-Sydney College on Thursday, September 16, and continue through Friday, November 12, 2004. A slide-lecture, "Leonardo da Vinci: Drawing as Investigative and Creative Tool", was given by Dr. Marina Della Putta Johnston, Asst. Professor of Italian Studies, Rosemont College, Rosemont, PA.

"The Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci" is comprised of sixteen fully operable models that have been fabricated by technicians of the IBM corporation from Leonardo's own drawings, which were recorded in notebooks until his death in 1519. With his propensity for keen observation plus his talent as an artist, Leonardo created drawings of such precise accuracy that these models could be reconstructed nearly 500 years later. More pictures...

The exhibit illustrates how Leonardo's sixteenth-century conceptual drawings foreshadowed modern technology. Through models such as the Hydraulic Screw that prefigures the water turbine, and the Variable Speed Drive, which is much like the transmission of a modern automobile, the exhibit demonstrates how Leonardo's drawings contained the guiding principals of many devices that revolutionized society and industry nearly four centuries later.

Just as remarkable as the machines he devised was Leonardo's approach to scientific inquiry. For Leonardo, as for modern scientists, careful observation was his starting point. He believed that the most efficient answer to any problem could be found in nature. Thus, he turned directly to nature to look for significant data. He recorded his observations meticulously and sought explanations by comparing one natural phenomenon with another. He conducted experiments to test and verify his hypotheses, recognizing that observations and experiments had to be repeated many times before generalized conclusions could be drawn.

Leonardo believed that art was a science and science an art, with the single purpose of discovering truth. From an early age, he drew plants, birds, and insects to improve his powers of observation. Later, he made detailed drawings of the human body, using his study of the body to perfect his art, and at the same time, bringing an artist's imagination, and insight to the pursuit of knowledge.

The Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum is located on College Road at Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney, Virginia. Hours: Tuesday - Friday, 12:30 PM - 4:30 PM and other times by appointment. For more information about the museum and other programs, please contact Lorie Mastemaker at 434-223-6134.