January 3, 2013 - Anniversary of Leonardo NOT Flying

The Greek myth about Icarus
involves a father-son pair who
try to fly. It is a tale of hubris
(see Dec. 30. 2012 entry).
People don't have wings, but people have always imagined building some sort of wings—perhaps mechanical ones—that would allow us to fly about like a bird. Many a dreamer has studied birds as they take off, soar, and land—and tried to build something that would allow us to take to the skies, too.

One dreamer who was more capable than most of achieving dreams was the original “Renaissance Man,” Leonardo. (We call Leonardo “da Vinci,” which means “of Vinci,” or “from the town of Vinci.” It wasn't his last name, because people didn't have last names then, but the place name added to his name helped people then and still helps people now to know which Leonardo we mean.)

Leonardo da Vinci is best known today for his paintings the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. But he was a sculptor as well as a painter, and an architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. He was a genius and quite possibly the most interesting man in the world.

One of his inventions was a glider or flying machine. Actually, Leonardo designed several such machines, and we know for sure that some didn't work. What we do not know is whether one or more of his machines DID work.

It may be that Leonardo took a hang-gliding sort of flight about 400 years before the Wright brothers invented the airplane. Read about this possibility here.

At any rate, an entry in Leonardo's notebook suggests that he tried out one of his flying machine ideas on this date in 1496. This test, at least, did not work.

Explore some more...

Check out the Museum of Science page about Leonardo's Mysterious Machinery. 

ThinkQuest also has a Leonardo page. 

Also on this date:

Great Day for the Yankees

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