Leonardo Da Vinci- An Artist and a Military Engineer

Leonardo da Vinci’s creativity was not just limited to art and literature, his artistry extended well beyond that, the Renaissance man in-addition made extraordinary inventions in the world of science and engineering.

Da Vinci was known for his humanitarian nature, he would often purchase caged birds and releasing them, a vegetarian who detested war. Despite his compassionate character and hatred towards violence he invented many war machines, the reason was patronage, he needed wealthy patrons for supporting his inventions. Da Vinci’s intellectual ability was recognized by some of the most powerful personalities of his time, most prominent being Cesare Borgia and Duke Sforza. His ambitious patrons used his scientific inventions for warfare, Da Vinci was employed as a military architect and engineer for creating advanced war machines, devising new methods for defense and inventions for naval attack.

Unfortunately not all of his inventions and commissions reached the finishing line, there are different viewpoints to the reason, some historians believe it was because of lack of support from his patrons for his monumental projects, few assert they were intentionally flawed as being an humanitarian he was unwillingly designing destructive war machines and some say that it was only logical since in that era he lacked resources for testing his herculean inventions.

Nonetheless some of his remarkable envisions have served as prototypes for the war machines of current times. Shown below are few such visions.


Helicopter Da Vinci was fascinated by the perception of flight, he designed numerous flying machines. Below is a model of a flying device called ‘Aerial Screw’, it’s been constructed based on his notes and sketch, the concept of which is quite similar to a helicopter of today’s time.

Image Source- vinci-closluce.com


Tank Leonardo designed an armored fighting vehicle integrated with cannon’s and other lethal weapons. The theory and functionality of the armored car is clearly equivalent to the modern day tank. Below is a Model of an armored vehicle designed by Leonardo.


Machine Gun– A mobile weapon with a revolving platform, which fires series of shots in quick succession was a groundbreaking invention made by the Renaissance man in that era. Shown below is a Model of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Machine gun at the Château du Clos Lucé.


Flying Machine– As mentioned earlier Da Vinci was particularly intrigued by the possibility of flight. An ornithopter was designed by him inspired by the flapping-wing flight of birds. As per his design, the wings were operated with hand levers and foot pedals, the pilot was to lie face down and a head gear was installed for steering.

Image Source- justacote.com


Revolving Bridge– The revolving bridge also known as the swing bridge was lightweight and sturdy, it could be disassemble and carried with much ease. The mobile bridge was used by armies on the move during wartime to cross over water-bodies. Once assembled the bridge could swing from one side across to the other end of the river.

Image sourced from the Book- Leonardo’s Machines: Da Vincis Inventions Revealed


Giant Crossbow– Da Vince also designed an enormous crossbow as a weapon. Based on his detailed drawing and instructions, the British Army constructed a sample, unfortunately the project was dropped unfinished. Below is a model of Leonardo’s design.

Image source- universalleonardo.org


Triple Barrel Canon– For Da Vinci, the gap between reloading and firing a canon was a waste of time in an ongoing battle, ‘Three Barreled Cannon’ was capable of firing continuously, reloading and firing could be done simultaneously with no intervals. Shown below is a model of Leonardo’s design.


Robotic Knight– Employing series of pulleys, cables and gears, Leonardo da Vinci constructed and designed an android. His Robotic Knight was capable of independently sitting, standing, raise its visor and maneuver its arms. Shown below is a model of a Leonardo da Vinci’s robot with its inner functionalities.


Parachute– Yet another invention made by Da Vinci because of his fascination for flight. Though the shape of his design differs from the modern day parachutes, experts have tested his model and declared that the purpose of the device for a smooth and slow motion was accomplished. Shown below is a model of Leonardo’s parachute.


Scuba Gear– This was one of the most valuable and practical inventions made by Da Vinci. Using Scuba Gear for sabotaging the enemy’s ships was an immense advantage over the invaders in that era. Unfortunately the idea seemed too far-fetched for his patrons. Shown below is a model of Da Vinci’s Scuba Gear.


Paddle Boat– The design was inspired by the fish’s movements in the water, he believed that their natural structure and actions made it easy for them to travel fast and navigate easily through the water. The idea was to make traveling by sea and river faster for communication sake.

Image sourced from the Book- Leonardo’s Machines: Da Vincis Inventions Revealed


Self-Propelled Cart with features like steering and brakes is considered a model for modern day cars.


Anemometer, an instrument for measuring the speed of wind helped with his flying machines as a support tool.

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