Leonardo is a man of great genius, and far more than just an excellent painter. In fact when I think of Leo painting is an afterthought. This post is inspired by a solid piece of video content from the channel People Who Changed the World. Ironically at the time of this writing it is the ONLY video on the channel. However I felt that it deserved more attention.
Not to mention it gave me the opportunity to talk about one of humanity's greatest beings to have ever lived.
"He was an architect, an astronomer, a botanist, a cartographer, an engineer, a geologist, a hydrodynamicist, a mathematician, a musician, a theatre producer, a scientist, an inventor and much, much more."
-People Who Changed the World
Note: There will be lots of resources throughout the post, so keep going until the "Leonardo da Vinci is my Hero" section! 🙂
Why he is such a magnificent person!
From the streets of Milan to the art shops he grew up in, there was a lot to learn for little ol'Leonardo. Being a bastard he wasn't able to have learned Latin officially, and thereby also not allowed into the higher education.
That did not stop him though from cultivating social-interpersonal skills, hell-bent on understanding the physical world around him, and even the deep anatomy of the human body.
"a man of outstanding beauty and grace."
"his presence brought comfort to the most troubled soul."
"Leonardo was charming, attractive, and had many friends."
It is this sort of gregarious behavior that I identify with the greatest. Although in his time personality types were not really a thing; I believe he was more of an ambivert like myself. That isn't just a projection either because he spent a considerable time alone, but also greatly enjoyed the company of others.
The sort of gentleman-like behavior that Vasari pointed out, is a prime example of the type of man I present in this post:
Living in a time of Renaissance
The whole era was that of chasing enlightenment, and fulfilling the sublime essence of humanity. Especially in Italy where Leo resided for quite some time in various locales.
It should be noted that there are notable comparable renaissance examples from other parts of the world. However I feel that the Italian one is that of the most known in the western world, perhaps in no small part due to Leonardo.
A man of the Renaissance who tried it all
He is known for his paintings, and yet he is far more than that. His main skills are that of science and engineering. He was a Scientist, not an Artist!
The beauty of this time too was that they were chasing the deepest reaches of knowledge, art, and the human experience. The money flowed, so all that was left was the challenge of figuring it all out.
Theoretical and Technical Skills
He is often called the first systems engineer, and is highly capable in many forms of mechanics. From a basic level of understanding of flight, hydrodynamics, levers and pulleys, gears, and more.
He often helped his patrons with making their theater performances much more dramatic. Either by helping the actors fly in the air, and even making a robotic suit to move on it's own (no one in the suit) with the help of a puppeteer.
His skills in the laws of physics for example allowed him to design things like the first parachute, and he even mapped out a city using the technology of the time.
Knowing Everything in a Time WHEN YOU COULD
Here is where a lot of people find polymathy to be "silly", for those who are unaware and hear the word polymath; They think it means to know everything, but that is further from the truth.
Polymathy is that of wide ranging learning's/knowledge areas, but that of deep knowledge. Akin to a multi-specialist, and whether or not you did it via juggling all of the areas of knowledge, or did them serialized like most people. The polymathic descriptor remains.
In the renaissance they were quite far along by that point, and so it could easily be assumed that they knew all IN THAT TIME. Which is why the curiosity of the artists of the time were so potent. From Da Vinci to Michelangelo, the masters strive to learn as much as they could.
In that time Leonardo really did know most of all there was to know, at least when it came to sciences and art. I doubt he spoke more than say Italian and French, as he was never formally taught in Latin. However perhaps he taught himself in secret, and who knows what other areas he failed to ever learn. Point is that even the guy we see as a 15 area or more polymath, did NOT know everything.
Knowing a lot vs Knowing Everything
People have called me a polymath purely because I am multidisciplinary. I usually politely correct them, as I feel that I have a lot more to learn. However maybe that polymathic mentality is what makes me? In any case knowing a lot of things, but in a deeper manner I think is more useful that knowing everything. However there is still a point to be made of being a novice in dozens of fields. Even just a micro-step towards understanding a subject will give you more clarity than a layperson.
Using that clarity, you can then transcontextualize that knowledge into the areas of knowledge you already know. Giving you brand new perspectives, that you wouldn't ever see if you were just stuck in your trench.
A Modern Equivalent
Think of the Full Stack developer, or the T-shaped marketer, or really any combination of fields into one person. Being multidisciplinary is the default mode for humanity.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects.”
- Robert Anson Heinlein
Another option in lieu of an old time renaissance person, is the PolyInnovator! ;)
What is a Polymath?
He is certainly what we would call a genuine polymath, someone who embodied the complexity of the term. I go into it in more greater detail in the post linked right below, but in essence it is someone with Wide ranging knowledge and learning.
Take like a jack of all trades and times it by ten. I created a spectrum for multidisciplinary people and terms, which is really useful in this case. There means that however, there is a difference between what is a polymath and a "true/genuine" polymath.
This is where a lot of people claim ego, or perhaps that it is that of reputation kind of thing. However it is not, for it is simply differentiating the levels of knowledge. Some people call me a polymath, due to the fact that they see me as highly multidisciplinary, which is true. Although I call myself more of a "Proto-Polymath", as I feel I still have a LONG way to go. Many researchers in the world of polymathy would agree, as there is a difference. That difference being the amount of impact one has had in the subjects of expertise.
In particular of the case of Leonardo, not only did he leave a major progress forward in most fields he worked in (that is if they were published), but he also did it in so so many areas. Close to around 15 areas of expertise, which some were that of a journeyman level, but still that is significantly higher than most people.
A man of Art or Science?
The Insatiable Curiosity
Something I think comes from his polymathic mindset, is that he had many skills. Much of which he could be paid for quite dearly, such as what he is most known for: painting. Many high ranking people throughout his life wanted to pay him to paint something for them, but he would refuse so he could work on something he was interested in.
I find myself in a similar stance, for I teach fitness/swimming in a unique way, and I often get requests (especially for swimming). However I find myself wanting to do other things, and the time opportunity cost is too much.
"every week he would write a long list of things he wanted to learn."
Anatomy, Hydrodynamics, Aerodynamics
He is thought to have dissected around 30 bodies, and had studied the anatomical structure of the human form. He is also said to have stayed in impeccable shape all of his life, even into old age, which as a fitness trainer myself really resonates.
He would go out and buy caged birds so he could see them fly away.
The great show Da Vinci's Demons has a scene that depicts this very concept well.
Curiosity is a Skill
Being curious about the external world around is innate from birth. It is how we develop in our initial years. However somewhere along the way you stop being you... wait that is a Rocky quote. Somewhere along the way you grow out of that stage, and it is because it is taught out of us.
“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education”
- Mark Twain
We must realize this as early as possible, and entertain those ideas that pop up in our head. What if we do this, or that, and allow ourselves to indulge our curiosity every once in a while. The more you do it, the stronger it gets.
The Mona Lisa and the Mandela Effect
There is much debate on whether or not the Mona Lisa is smiling or frowning, and some have even come to the idea that it is the work of the Mandela Effect. If you were to look up the painting, you would see that of her smiling, however I grew up knowing that it was a frown.
A very pretty frown, and it still changed when you would change perspective. However still a frown nonetheless. Am I from an alternate timeline, or are you? haha I digress.
"For this reason, Leonardo created “ambiguous” facial expression. In ambiguous expressions there is a constant “change: of appearance, hence dynamicity. Leonardo developed the technique of "sfumato". "
What is the Mandela Effect?
What would the World look like had his Works been Published?
He discovered many things such as ocular anatomy, laser physics, heart structure, and much more. Far ahead of the global common science community.
We might have achieved a great progress the likes of the industrial revolution, had the world seen his works. Although this is simply conjecture at this point, as we can't ever truly know!
Something in the first video that was mentioned, that would have for sure made an impact on the world, is that of his work with dentistry. More than likely he was the first person in the world to accurately describe the four different kinds of human teeth. This is just one example of the worldly things he did, created, or discovered.
Architect and War Monger
As someone who was opposed to the brutality of war, the fascination of war machines, and pushing the science ever forward. It got Leonardo to dream up ever fascinating machines.
Although it wasn't until he saw the ferocity of war that he decided to quit designing new machines.
It also should be noted that he would put intentional flaws in his designs, so that unless he was the one to make them then they wouldn't work.
The First Smart City
A city designed to stop the spread of diseases, improve the state of life for denizens, even a sewer system.
He was one of the first to really come up with the idea of a modern age city, and it is too bad he wasn't able to go through with it.
The Fireside Codex
This section of the Omniblog is meant for my journaling, as I never got around to doing that much. I feel that if I don't publish something for other people, then it isn't worth it. However I have since learned that isn't the case, as being able to get your thoughts down is crucial for mental health.
Sometimes I have random ideas I want to write down, maybe even share, and so I created this fireside (as in fireside closeknit chats), and codex as in many entries. To be like a public journal, and perhaps I'll still work on my private journals in Notion.so too. However I wanted to publish as much as I could, even if they are not actual blog posts. Just so I don't make the same mistake as my hero Leonardo did.
Leonardo da Vinci is my Hero
To sum all of this up I think it is fair to say I adore Leonardo, and in fact I was nearly named after the ninja turtle. In turn was named after the polymath renaissance person.
Even in 7th grade I was curious about him, and did a presentation on him. I hope to achieve the same level of accomplishments in my own life, and I hope that you can too. It is why I create the polymath-niche content I do, for it can help others get to a more organized state. Fighting the perfectionism that plagued Leo, and adding to the world in unprecedented ways.
"Present yourself based on who you want to BECOME."
This is a major motivating factor behind me creating PolyInnovator in the first place. Learning how to market yourself, and my ability to learn something quickly if I need to.
This is an Example of what my PolyPro Posts Look like
Meaning that the paid subscription gets you long form, information/wisdom dense, and overall just full of value posts like this. Topics may vary, but the quality does not! You can expect awesome detailed posts like this one!
This post actually started out as a short complimentary piece of the first video on this page, but as I started writing the passion overtook. Not to mention a plethora of other great Da Vinci videos I have found over the years were sitting there not being seen.
I thought this post was a good basis for a PolyPRO post, which is that of a long form mega-post. Otherwise I'd have made another redundant one down the line.
I really hope you enjoy this!