Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1520, MS 2173 Codex B, National Library France (facsimile)
Before anything, including machines and robotics, can be invented and built, someone must imagine and envision them. Leonardo da Vinci, sometimes called humanity’s greatest polymath, has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance Man, a man of “unquenchable curiousity,” “feverishly inventive imagination” and “perhaps the most diversely talented person to ever have lived.” He recorded his imaginings and inventions in a series of private notebooks – 13,000 pages of notes and drawings made and maintained daily throughout his life and travels. They display an enormous range of interests and preoccupations – from lists of groceries and people who owed him money to designs for shoes for walking on water. This is a page from a perfect facsimile of one of his notebooks: Manuscript # 2173 Codex B. The work contains da Vinci’s hand-drawn images of pulley systems, the human body, automobile-type machines, early sketches for helicopters and other machines for human flight, including artificial wings and more. Also included are sketches of architecture, artillery, a portable ladder for scaling city walls and other military technology. The original notebook may be found in the National Library of France (Biblioteque Nationale).