Famous Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: helicopter, tank….

Винаходи Леонардо да Вінчі: які змінили історію

What are the most famous inventions of Leonardo da Vinci and was he really a genius or just redesigned the ideas of the other?

Painter, sculptor, architect, anatomist, naturalist, inventor, engineer, writer, thinker, musician, poet. If you list only these areas of application of talent, without naming the name of the person to whom they belong, anyone would say: Leonardo da Vinci. We will consider only one of the facets of the personality of the “great Leonardo” and talk about his technical inventions.

The scientific prophet

Da Vinci was a famous figure of his time, but real fame came many centuries after his death. It was only at the end of the 19th century that the scientist’s theoretical notes were first published. 

They contained descriptions of devices that were strange and mysterious for their time. During the Renaissance, da Vinci could hardly count on the speedy implementation of all his inventions. The main obstacle to their implementation was the insufficient technical level. 

Famous Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: helicopter, tank....
Famous Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: helicopter, tank….

But in the 20th century, almost all the devices described in his works became reality. This suggests that Leonardo was not only a talented inventor, but also a man who was able to foresee technological progress. Of course, this was based on deep knowledge of Leonardo. 

The scientist systematized his developments by creating so-called “codes” – books containing records about certain aspects of science and technology. There is, for example, the “Leicester Code”, in which you can find descriptions of various natural phenomena, as well as mathematical calculations. 

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It is noteworthy that da Vinci’s notes were made in the so-called “mirror” type. All letters are written from right to left and rotated vertically. You can only read them using a mirror. There is still debate about why the scientist needed to keep records in this way. One version is that in this way he intended to classify his works. 

Famous Inventions of Leonardo do Vinci:

Helicopter and hang glider 

No technical invention evokes such awe and admiration as the flying machine. That is why special attention has been focused on da Vinci’s flying machines at all times. 

The inventor has always dreamed of the idea of ​​aeronautics. Birds became a source of inspiration for the scientist. Leonardo tried to create a wing for an aircraft in the image and likeness of the wings of birds. 

Famous Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: Helicopter and hang glider
Famous Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: Helicopter and hang glider

One of the devices he developed was set in motion with the help of movable wings, which were raised and lowered due to the rotation of the pilot’s pedals. The pilot himself was positioned horizontally (lying). 

Another version of the flying machine was supposed to use for movement not only the legs, but also the hands of the aeronaut. Experiments with the “bird” wing had no practical success, and soon the inventor switched to the idea of ​​gliding flight. 

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This is how the hang glider prototype appeared. By the way, in 2002, British testers proved the correctness of the da Vinci hang glider concept. Using the apparatus built according to the master’s drawings, world hang gliding champion Judy Liden was able to rise to a height of ten meters and stayed in the air for seventeen seconds. 

Among the famous inventions of Leonardo da Vinci equally interesting is the rotorcraft. Nowadays, many consider this machine to be the prototype of the modern helicopter. Although the apparatus is more like a gyroplane rather than a helicopter. The screw, made of thin flax, had to be driven by four people. The helicopter was one of the first flying machines proposed by Leonardo da Vinci. Perhaps this is why he had a number of serious flaws that would never have allowed him to take off. For example, the strength of four people was clearly not enough to create the thrust required for takeoff. 

Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: parachute
Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: parachute

But the parachute was one of the simplest designs of a genius. But this does not detract from the significance of the invention at all. According to Leonardo’s idea, the parachute was supposed to have a pyramidal shape, and its design was supposed to be covered with fabric. In our time, testers have proven that the concept of the da Vinci parachute can be considered correct. In 2008, Swiss Olivier Tepp successfully landed using a pyramidal tent. True, for this the parachute had to be made of modern materials. 


When you get acquainted with the famous inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, you begin to understand why small Italy became the birthplace of legendary car brands. Back in the 15th century, an Italian inventor was able to sketch a “self-propelled carriage”, which became the prototype of modern cars.

 The trolley designed by Leonardo had no driver and was set in motion by means of a spring mechanism. Although the latter is just an assumption of modern scientists. It is not known for certain exactly how the master intended to move his invention forward. 

Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: car
Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: car

We also don’t know how the first car should have looked. Leonardo paid the main attention not to the appearance of the structure, but to the technical characteristics. The cart was tricycle, like a child’s bicycle. The rear wheels rotated independently of each other. 

In 2004, Italian researchers managed not only to build a car designed by da Vinci, but also to make it move! Scientist Carlo Pedretti managed to unravel the main secret of Leonardo da Vinci’s carriage, namely, the principle of movement. The researcher suggested that the car should have been driven not by springs, but by special springs that were located at the bottom of the structure.

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Bestialissima pazzia (translated from Italian “animal madness”) – this is exactly the unflattering epithet for the war titan of the Renaissance. In his notes, da Vinci mentioned that he hated war and killing machines. 

Paradoxically, this did not prevent him from developing new military equipment. Do not forget that Leonardo did not live in peacetime. Italian cities were in a difficult relationship with each other, moreover, there was a threat of French intervention.

Leonardo da Vinci: tank
Leonardo da Vinci: tank


By the end of the 15th century, da Vinci had become a well-known and respected military specialist. Among inventions of Leonardo da Vinci there are numerous military developments, which were described in a letter written to the Duke of Milan Sforza. 

One of the scientist’s most exciting ideas was … a tank. However, it would be much more correct to call Leonardo’s design a preliminary prototype of armored vehicles of the 20th century. 

This design had a rounded shape and outwardly resembled a turtle bristling with arms on all sides. The inventor hoped to solve the problem of getting around with horses. 

True, this idea was quickly abandoned: in a confined space, animals could become uncontrollable. Instead, the “engine” of such a tank had to be eight people who would turn the levers connected to the wheels, and thus move the combat vehicle forward. 

Another crew member was supposed to be at the top of the vehicle and indicate the direction of movement. Interestingly, the design of the armored vehicle only allowed it to move forward. As you might guess, at that time the tank concept had little chance of being implemented. A tank will become a truly effective weapon only when it is possible to create a suitable internal combustion engine. The main merit of da Vinci was that he managed to open the curtain of history and look many centuries ahead.

Scythe chariot  

Another very original and at the same time terrible invention of Leonardo da Vinci dates back to 1485. It received the uncomplicated name “scythe chariot”. 

Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: chariot
Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci: chariot  

This chariot was a horse cart equipped with rotating scythes. The design does not at all claim to be the invention of the century. This invention was also not destined to be implemented in the reality. On the other hand, the war chariot demonstrates da Vinci’s breadth of thought as a military specialist. 

Machine gun 

One of the most famous inventions of da Vinci, ahead of their time, is considered to be a machine gun. Although Leonardo’s design is more correctly called a multi-barreled weapon. 

Da Vinci had several designs of multiple rocket launchers. His most famous invention in this field is the so-called “organ-pipe musket”. 

Leonardo Da Vinci Machine gun
Leonardo Da Vinci Machine gun

The design had a rotating platform on which three rows of muskets were placed, eleven barrels each. The da Vinci machine gun could make only three shots without reloading, but they would have been enough to defeat a large number of enemy soldiers. 

The main design flaw was that such a machine gun is extremely difficult to reload, especially in combat conditions. Another variant of the multi-barreled gun involved the arrangement of a large number of muskets like a fan. 

The barrels of the gun were directed in different directions, increasing the radius of destruction. Like the previous development, the “fan” weapon to increase mobility was supposed to be equipped with wheels. 

Cannonballs and “mobile” bridges  

Perhaps the most insightful invention of da Vinci’s were keeled cannonballs. Such cannonballs resembled artillery shells of the 20th century in shape. This development was many centuries ahead of its time. It demonstrates scientists’ deep understanding of the laws of aerodynamics. 

Leonardo Da Vinci Cannonballs
Leonardo Da Vinci Cannonballs

The invention, which received the name “rotating bridge”, was of great value for its time. This bridge became the prototype of modern mobile mechanized bridges, designed for the rapid crossing of troops from one bank to another. The da Vinci bridge was solid and was attached to one bank. After the installation of the bridge, it was supposed to turn it to the opposite bank using the ropes.

Leonardo Da Vinci mobile bridge
Leonardo Da Vinci mobile bridge

Diving suit 

Yes, yes, da Vinci is also credited with his invention. The diving suit was made of leather and fitted with glass lenses. 

The diver could breathe with the help of reed pipes. The scientist proposed the concept of a diving suit in order to repel the threat posed by the Turkish fleet. 

Leonardo Da Vinci Diving suit

According to the idea, the divers were supposed to dive to the bottom and wait for the arrival of enemy ships. When enemy ships would appear above the water, the divers had to sabotage and send the ships to the bottom. 

It was not destined to prove the correctness of this concept. Venice was able to resist the Turkish fleet without the help of saboteurs. By the way, the world’s first detachment of combat swimmers appeared in Italy, but this happened only in 1941. The very design of the diving suit presented by da Vinci can be considered innovative.  

Submarine, mine, pistol parts  

The records of Leonardo da Vinci have survived to our time, on which you can clearly make out the prototype of the submarine. But there is very little information about it. Most likely, on the surface, the ship could move using sails. Under water, the ship had to move with the help of oar power. 

Leonardo da Vinci. submarine
Leonardo da Vinci. submarine

To defeat enemy ships, da Vinci designed a special underwater mine. According to the inventor’s plan, saboteurs or a submarine could deliver such a mine to the side of an enemy ship. This idea was first realized only in the second half of the 19th century, during the American Civil War. 

Despite the abundance of inventions, only one of them brought da Vinci fame during his lifetime. This is a pistol wheel lock. In the 16th century, this development gave rise to a real technological boom. The design was so successful that it was used until the 19th century. 

All of the above is not a complete list of famous inventions of Leonardo da Vinci. In addition to these prototypes, among the ideas of the master were: a bearing, a mechanical ladder, a rapid-fire crossbow, a steam weapon, a ship with a double bottom, and much more.  

Ideal city 

If history had gone the other way, the small Italian town of Vigevano near Milan could have become a real wonder of the world. It was there that Leonardo da Vinci intended to bring his most ambitious idea to life – the ideal city. Da Vinci’s project resembles a high-tech city of the future from the literary works of science fiction. Or a utopia engendered by a violent literary fantasy. 

Ideal city Da Vinci
Ideal city Da Vinci

The main feature of such a city was that it consisted of several tiers connected by stairs and passages. As you might guess, the upper tier was intended for the upper strata of society. The lower one was allocated for trade and services. 

The most important elements of the transport infrastructure were also located there. The city was to become not only the greatest architectural achievement of the time, but also to embody many technical innovations. 

However, one should not perceive the project as a manifestation of soulless technocracy. Da Vinci paid a lot of attention to the comfort of the city’s inhabitants. Practicality and hygiene were at the forefront. The scientist decided to change narrow medieval streets by spacious roads and squares. One of the key aspects of the concept was the widespread use of water channels. A sophisticated hydraulic system had to supply water to every building in the city. Da Vinci believed that in this way it would be possible to eliminate unsanitary conditions and reduce the spread of disease to a minimum. 

Having familiarized himself with the concept of the scientist, the Duke of Milan, Lodovico Sforza, considered the idea too adventurous. At the end of his life, Leonardo presented the same project to the French king Francis I. The scientist proposed to make the city the capital of the monarch, but the project remained on paper. 

Genius or Plagiarist? Do famous inventions of Leonardo da Vinci really belong to him? 

As you know, history develops in a spiral. Many inventions were born long before their development was appropriated by other inventors. Probably Leonardo da Vinci is also no exception.

Do not forget that da Vinci had access to the scientific heritage of ancient civilization. In addition, da Vinci lived surrounded by the best minds of his time. He had the opportunity to communicate with prominent figures in science and culture. The scientist could learn many ideas from his colleagues. 

The artist and engineer Mariano Taccola is the forgotten genius of the Renaissance. He died in 1453 (da Vinci was born in 1452). Unlike da Vinci, Mariano Taccola did not receive recognition during his life and did not gain worldwide fame after it. Meanwhile, many of Taccola’s developments found their continuation in the works of da Vinci. It is known that Leonardo was familiar with the works of Francesco di Giorgio, which, in turn, were based on the ideas of Taccola. For example, in the manuscripts of Di Giorgio, da Vinci had the opportunity to familiarize himself with the concept of Taccola’s diving suit. 

It would be a mistake to think of da Vinci as the inventor of flying machines. In the 11th century, the monk Eilmer of Malmesbury lived in England. Possessing wide knowledge in the field of mathematics, he built a primitive hang glider and even made a short flight on it. It is known that Eilmer managed to fly over two hundred meters. 

Chances are good that Leonardo also borrowed the concept of the helicopter. But already with the Chinese. In the 15th century, Chinese traders brought toys that resembled mini-helicopters to Europe. 

A similar point of view is shared by the British historian Gavin Menzies, who believes that da Vinci took over his most famous inventions. Menzies claims that in 1430 the Chinese delegation visited Venice, passing on many of the developments of Chinese scientists to the Venetians.  

At the same time, Leonardo da Vinci always remains for us one of the greatest inventors of all times and peoples. Many ideas came to life thanks to Leonardo. The scientist improved various inventions and, more importantly, was able to give them clarity. Do not forget that Leonardo da Vinci was a talented artist. The master left a lot of sketches for his designs. And even if the ideas attributed to da Vinci do not belong to him, it cannot be denied that the scientist was able to systematize a huge layer of knowledge, bringing this knowledge to posterity. 

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