Leonardo da Vinci created the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and engineering. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history’s most creative genius. Now Walter Isaacson brings Leonardo da Vinci to life, showing why we have much to learn from him.
His combination of science, art, technology and imagination remains an enduring recipe for creativity. So, too, was his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted and at times heretical. His relentless curiosity should remind us of the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it – to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think differently.
Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Leonardo da Vinci; The Innovators; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography and the co-author of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made.