20 mind blowing innovation of Leonardo da Vinci

by | History |

20 mind blowing innovation of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian polymath, displaying skills in numerous diverse areas of study. Whilst most famous for his paintings such as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, Leonardo is also renowned in the fields of civil engineering, chemistry, geology, geometry, hydrodynamics, mathematics, mechanical engineering, optics, physics, pyrotechnics, and zoology.

Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) was born the illegitimate son of Messer Piero, a notary, and Caterina, a peasant woman. His early life was spent in the region of Vinci, in the valley of the Arno River near Florence, firstly with his mother and in later childhood in the household of his father, grandfather, and uncle Francesco.

Leonardo da Vinci may well have been the greatest inventor in history, but he preserved in his notebooks a lot of sketches and diagrams of his inventions. Because of that, almost none of da Vinci's inventions were built during his lifetime. And, because he never published his diagrams, nobody else knew about them until his notebooks were discovered long after his death. If they had been built, they might have revolutionized the history of technology, though many of them may have been impossible to build with the tools available in the 15th and 16th centuries. In recent years, however, engineers have begun to construct models of da Vinci's amazing machines and most of them actually work.

So, here we are going to explore some most fascinating inventions in this post.

Let's get started -


Still, this is one of da Vinci’s more controversial inventions, with archaeological evidence indicating rudimentary scissors from ancient Egypt, and cross-bladed scissors from ancient Rome. However, it is clear that da Vinci made detailed sketches of scissors and likely contributed to an improved design. The scissors had major importance in the development of mankind.


The first parachute had been imagined and sketched by Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th century. It’s hard to believe something as “modern” as a parachute could have been invented over 500 years ago. Leonardo’s parachute design consists of sealed linen cloth held open by a pyramid of wooden poles - about seven meters long. The invention would allow any man to “throw himself down from any great height without suffering any injury,” da Vinci said. Still, because his ideas were way ahead of his time, the technology was not able to sustain his ideas, thus nobody invented a practical parachute until 1783. However, the cool part is that in 2000, daredevil Adrian Nichols actually built a parachute based on Leonardo’s designs. Despite great skepticism from most people, the parachute worked smoothly and Nichols even complemented its smooth ride.

Diving Suit

Originally designed as a way of warding off invading ships, Da Vinci’s diving suit would allow men to engage in a little underwater sabotage by cutting holes in the bottom of the enemy’s hull. Unfortunately, the design, complete with breathing hose and glass goggles, wasn’t needed at the time and would only find itself submerged in planning stages.

Flying Machine

The flying machine, otherwise known as the ‘Ornithopter’, took its inspiration from bats and birds. Da Vinci designed a machine where the pilot lay down in the center and pedaled a crank, connected to a rod-and-pulley system, to get the machine moving. Once in the air, the wings were designed to flap, much like a bird’s.

Mona Lisa

Without a doubt, the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa (or Gioconda) has fascinated people for centuries – and for good reason. Still, it was worth every second, because the entire picture - especially the enigmatic smile - is the crowning of a genius.

Helical aerial screw

The Helical Aerial Screw, conceived by Leonardo in 1493, consisted of a spinning linen screw, designed to compress air to induce flight: a mechanism similar to that employed in contemporary helicopters. Leonardo’s design is widely credited as the vertical flight machine.

The Armored Tank

Da Vinci was the first person to design an armored tank. While working for the Duke of Milan, he created an armored war machine, complete with 36 guns to be driven by eight men. In theory, it was virtually invincible

Machine Gun

Da Vinci’s hatred of war and “killing machines” seems a bit counterintuitive. But like so many who engage in the morally-compromising activity, Da Vinci did so only because he was desperate to support his own household. The machine gun was yet another of Da Vinci’s deadly designs that never came to fruition, but it certainly would have destroyed any incoming enemy.


Leonardo conceived a new design for an Anemometer, a device that measures the speed of the wind. Adapted from an original design by Leon Battista, Leonardo’s additions made the device considerably more accurate. Always doing things with style, Leonardo’s anemometer is also a beautiful thing to look at.

Barreled cannon

Leonardo was heavily preoccupied with the inadequacies of contemporary warfare, frustrated particularly by the time-lag between rounds of cannon fire, caused by the necessity to reload. Leonardo devised a multi-barrelled cannon that could be rotated to fire a line of cannons whilst another was being reloaded: an early ancestor of the modern day machine gun.

Revolving bridge

Leonardo’s revolving bridge was not just an engineering marvel and a huge innovation in warfare, but also a curious early example of flat-pack design. Designed in the 1480s for Duke Sforza, the bridge allowed troops to cross rivers quickly, and could easily be packed up and transported for reuse elsewhere.

Robotic Knight

The Robotic Knight was an early example of a humanoid automaton which was operated via a series of pulleys and levers that mimicked Leonardo’s anatomical observations of the human muscular structure.

Spring Device

It is one of many drawings produced during Da Vinci's lifetime which depict technical innovations or inventions that Da Vinci believed could revolutionize the way things were done. Spring device shares a common trope with many of Da Vinci's other technical drawings in that it shows a device which is built around a screw.

A Parabolic Compass

Since classical times, artists and mathematicians had been able to render irreducible shapes like the square and the circle quite accurately. Leonardo advanced the discipline by using his engineering mind in designing the parabolic compass. Leonardo actually drew the Design for a Parabolic Compass without access to his own, uninvented mathematical instrument will remain, like so much else about the artist, a mystery.

Giant Crossbow

One thing Leonardo da Vinci may have understood better than any of his contemporaries was the psychological effects of weapons in warfare. Da Vinci knew that the fear weapons could instill in enemies was just as important (if not more so) than the damage they could actually inflict. This was one of the main ideas behind many of da Vinci’s war inventions – among them, his giant crossbow. Designed for pure intimidation, da Vinci’s crossbow was to measure 27 yards across. The device would have six wheels (three on each side) for mobility, and the bow itself would be made of thin wood for flexibility.

Self-Propelled Cart

Like many other Leonardo’s inventions, this one was well ahead of his time. This probably also explains why the incredible machine was “discovered” in his drawings only in the early 20th century. But no one could figure out how it was supposed to work until the late 1990s when Professor Carlo Pedretti realized that it isn’t directly driven by the springs but by another mechanism that was controlled by the springs. In addition to being able to move independently, Leonardo’s self-propelled cart was also shown to be programmable to turn - albeit only to the right side.

The lens-grinding machine

In the lens-grinding machine, the hand rotation of the grinding wheel operates an angle-gear, which rotates a shaft, turning a geared dish in which sits the glass or crystal to be ground. A single action rotates both surfaces at a fixed speed ratio determined by the gear.

Viola organista

The viola organista was an experimental musical instrument invented by Leonardo da Vinci. It was the first bowed keyboard instrument (of which any record has survived) ever to be devised.


To put away any initial confusion – Leonardo da Vinci did not invent the clock. What he did was design a more accurate clock. While clocks that showed hours and minutes had become increasingly accurate in da Vinci’s time (the 15th century), they didn’t really make a big leap forward until the incorporation of the pendulum about 200 years later. But, da Vinci actually designed a more accurate clock in his lifetime. Leonardo’s clock had two separate mechanisms: one for minutes and one for hours. Da Vinci’s major innovation was to have springs, rather than weights operate his clock. He also included the detail of some materials that would be used to make the clock – including diamonds and rocks.

Ball bearing

As an invention, the ball bearing doesn't seem all that impressive, but much of modern technology depends on it. Ball bearings make it possible to drive shafts to rotate, for goods to roll along ramps in a factory or store, and for mechanical devices in general to operate. The idea can be traced back to the Roman Empire, but many historians believe that da Vinci's notebooks contain the first practical designs. Many of the devices that he conceived depend on them and wouldn't have operated without them.