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Leonardo's Legacy: How Da Vinci Reimagined the World Hardcover – April 27, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1St Edition edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818257
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,160,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Every year more than 5 million people line up to see Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa-but why? In his latest, German science writer Klein (The Secret Pulse of Time) seeks to understand why "this portrait of a Florentine housewife of no more than average beauty" is so "deeply penetrating." Klein makes a compelling case that DaVinci's ability to trigger an empathetic physical response in the viewer lay in his scientific acumen: the asymmetry of the Mona Lisa's smile, for instance, deliberately reflects the asymmetry of the human brain. While Leonardo is remembered primarily as an artist, his accomplishments as a scientist were at least as important; among other work, he studied the motion of water, worked out the trajectory of missiles, and designed impregnable fortifications, all with just a bare-bones knowledge of arithmetic. Klein insists that "the Mona Lisa so riveting because it incorporated many of the optical rules that Leonardo discovered," such as the way proportions change in relation to distance and colors transform as light passes through the atmosphere. Including a detailed chronology of the artist's life, this makes an illuminating new look at Leonardo's unique genius. 70 B&W photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

German science writer Klein enlightens readers about modern perspectives on Leonardo da Vinci’s oeuvre, which is generously represented here. He opens with the most widely known fact about Leonardo: he painted the Mona Lisa. Klein’s visit to the famed dame sets his pattern of trying to understand Leonardo’s thought by directly looking at his actual paintings and drawings and walking about places where the Renaissance genius conducted investigations or construction projects. A close description of the image in question, be it a portrait or drafts of flowing water, anatomy, or the technology of weaponry, flying machines, and mechanical devices, matches the acuity of Leonardo’s observations, which Klein elaborates. The views of contemporary scholars and accounts of projects by Leonardo enthusiasts to build some of his contraptions further reinforce Klein’s presentation of Leonardo as a modern scientist and engineer. Even where nature stymied Leonardo’s perspicacity—motion completely bamboozled him—Klein extols his imaginative inquiring. Using biography, travelogue, and history, Klein turns in a companionable introduction. --Gilbert Taylor

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on July 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
German science writer Stefan Klein has written a dandy retrospective on the work of Leonardo da Vinci and his envisioning of a future of spectacular technology, much of which has come to pass some 500 years after he lived. Leonardo da Vinci, of course, is best known for his spectacular Renaissance art, and anyone who has seen his stunning "Mona Lisa" and the "Last Supper of Christ" will attest to his genius in this realm. But he was also a designer, an engineer, and a builder of fascinating machines. And many of those that he could not actually build; he still anticipated and helped to further their creation.

At least that is the story told in this fine synopsis, "Leonardo's Legacy: How da Vinci Reimagined the World." Klein pursues discussion of many different elements of da Vinci's legacy, taking a decidedly thematic rather than chronological approach in doing so. As a result he has chapters on his curiosity, his interest in water and perhaps even fluid dynamics, his development of fortifications and fantastic weapons of war, his quest to fly, his building of automatons and envisioning of robots, his interest in the body and human anatomy, his apocalyptic and other musings. All of these items are interesting and worthy of study. They do not, however, make a biography and anyone seeking such a study would do well to look elsewhere. But if a brisk overview of de Vinci's life and work is desired this is as good a work as any on this subject.

While the genius of Leonardo da Vinci is secure I was struck by how ineffective many of his ideas proved to be. He promised, for example, to build a giant crossbow that could assault fortifications. He never tested such a weapon, at least as far as we know and when modern engineers tried to replicate his design the weapon was useless.
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By Robert C. Ross on June 28, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Leonardo da Vinci was many things, but in this fine biography, Stefan Klein focuses on Leonardo the naturalist. He explores how Leonardo could see the world with a unique vision. Klein analyzes how a painter could have invented the "exploded view" of bodies and machines, in which a translucent outer structure revealed inner connections. We are so used to seeing bodies and machines deconstructed in this way -- by drawings or overlays or by small slices created by MRI machines or personal computers -- that we forget that the "exploded view" was a human invention of great illustrative power.

Klein interviews hobbyists and scholars who build Leonardo's flying machines, and he visits the places where Leonardo might have conducted test flights. Klein consults engineers about details of Leonard's water clock. He hikes the terrain that Leonardo explored. On a personal side, he visits the Loire Valley and a house where Leonardo spent his last days; the house has a marvelous collection of model machines based on Leonardo's drawings and description. I spent several hours marvelling over those same models, and similar models in an IBM exhibit in New York City.

The house is called the Clos Luce in Amboise; you can easily find the website by searching on those words. There is a good collection of drawings and images of the IBM models pictured on the website.

Leonardo knew a bit about marketing himself and his inventions: ""I can build very light bridges, solid, robust, easily transportable, to pursue and sometimes flee from the enemy [...] I also have the means to make bombardments, very easy to transport, which throw stones almost like a storm, terrorizing the enemy with their smoke [...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I tend to read business books and other non-fiction words intended to provide something "useful" in my life. However, whenever I venture outside of these books, I prefer history. I have always found him intriguing, even before reading this book (from my vague and pitifully small knowledge of Leondardo's life). I am glad I chose this book. I like the straight line design, which took me throughout the stages of this life. The author was sure to include detailed recounts of certain important and interesting incidents within his life. If you want to learn more about this wondrous individual, this read this book! Well written, fun, and hard to put down.
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Format: Paperback
This was a readable intro in to the diverse creations of Leonardo da Vinci. It included artistic, scientific, military devices, hydraulic schemes. The author mostly draws from what remains of 10,000 pp of da Vinci's journals.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sewmom on January 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my son who had read it before, loved it and wanted his own copy. It is very informative, looking into the mind of this great artist.
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