Robotic Renaissance: Past, Present, and Future  of Bio Based Robotics

  Robofest 2013  

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Leonardo da Vinci - The Renaissance Man

Italian Painter, Scientist, and Mathematician 1452–1519


Leonardo da Vinci was born in the Italian town of Vinci. As a young boy, he showed a talent for painting. When he was 20 years old, he joined the painters' guild in Florence. Within a few years, Leonardo's talent was known all across Europe. Although he completed only thirty paintings, two of them—the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper—are among the most easily recognized paintings of all time.


Leonardo was more than a painter: He was a scientist and mathematician who explored botany, mechanics, astronomy, physics, biology, and optics. Leonardo developed prototypes of the modern helicopter, submarine, and parachute, and he attributed his scientific discoveries to mathematics. He wrote, "There is no certainty in science where mathematics cannot be applied."


 Like no other man, Leonardo personifies the Renaissance, a term meaning rebirth - a time 500 years ago when the focus shifted from metaphysical to the scientific exploration of the different phenomena mankind encounters in nature; and the use of mechanical inventions for everyday life needs.


The artwork that has become the symbol for the Renaissance is one of Leonardo’s creations: The Vitruvian Man (below).



Although Leonardo dabbled in different areas of mathematics, geometry was his chief focus. He discovered a proof of the Pythagorean theorem, dissected various geometric figures, and illustrated a book about geometry and art. At one point in Leonardo's life, a friend of his noted that "his mathematics experiments have distracted him so much from his painting that he can no longer stand his paint brush."


 Leonardo da Vinci most likely represents more than anybody else the synthesis of all-embracing curiosity, open-mindedness, and ingenuity

that characterized the Renaissance polymaths or so called Renaissance Man with interests and expertise  in multiple fields - regrettably rare in today’s fragmented scientific landscape.

During the last three years of his life, Leonardo was a guest of Francois I, King of France. The king hoped Leonardo would produce some masterpieces for the royal court. He never did. Leonardo finished a few paintings he had already started and spent the rest of his time making scientific explorations - primarily concerning flight. He died in Amboise, France.


Leonardo Da Vinci is recorded as being the creator of the first robot in human form (1495). The Robot is a knight in appearance wearing the traditional for the time, Italian-German armour.

Leonardo had created other forms of robotics also, including a walking mechanical lion and a spring-powered car, which is considered to be the first programmable computer!



Leonardo created his robot to prove to himself that a human beings body could be imitated. He also built it to show case it in working mode at parties for his patron Lodovico Sforz. Da Vinci’s robot would have been the highlight of the party with Leonardo at the helm cranking the robot to move. Leonardo used his initial studies of anatomy and kinaesthetics to design the robot. His creation was to show that the human body is a machine in structure and that it’s intricate movements could be imitated with the use of engineering machine parts such as levers and pulley’s.


Leonardo's Robot

In 1495 Leonardo da Vinci designed a mechanical man capable of movement similar to humans'. Looking like a suit of armor, its inner workings are complete with pulleys, cables, and gears to make it move like the bones and muscles in the human body.


When Leonardo built his robot in 1495, it had the ability to walk, stand and sit, open and close it’s mouth and raise its arms. The robot could also move its head side to side. The robot is noted to have a jaw anatomically correct.



Inner workingsof  the Robotic knight


The robot was composed of two working structures.

  1. A four factor system that controls the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders
  2. A tri-factor system, which in turn moves the arms
  3. The chest is said to be programmable in an analogue format
  4. The lower body and the entire tr-factor system is powered by a crank via a cable which in turn is connected to all the component parts of the leg.



Using the principles behind Leonardo's mechanical man, modern-day engineers have manufactured a new type of robot—the anthrobot. More human-like than other types of mechanical robots, anthrobots have greater flexibility, dexterity, and motion. The human-like movements of the anthrobot have made it an ideal choice for NASA's space exploration program and the construction of a space station.

About LeEonardo DaVInci Recommended Web Sites

There is a lot of information on the Web on Leonardo da Vinci

These are just a few sites


Web Sites on Leonardo da Vinci


Universal Leonardo

A project "that aims to radically extend public understanding and appreciation of the deep unity and extraordinary diversity of Leonardo da Vinci’s work in all his fields of endeavor", as the site states. It has European exhibitions on Leonardo and his works. It also contains sections on Leonardo’s life, his inventions, his other works. You can inspect his drawings, manuscripts, and paintings and learn the different occupations of Leonardo’s life; play games; and dig through a bibliography.



Web site of the Leonardo3 exhibition in Milan. This is dedicated to the visualization of Leonardo’s work in three dimensions and creates virtual reconstructions of the environments, objects, instruments, and laboratories in which some of the most significant ideas in the history of technology were conceived and developed, as the site states.  There are many images of Leonardo’shere inventions on the site, most of them based on computer graphics.  



There’s a lot of material on Leonardo da Vinci available on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia

The most comprehensive content can be found in the Italian edition, where you can spend days just following the links provided. For those of us who have not mastered the Italian language, the English version is close.

First book regarding Leonardo's lost robots