Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (April 15, 1452
May 2, 1519) was a talented Italian Renaissance Roman Catholic
polymath: architect, anatomist, sculptor, engineer, inventor, geometer,
scientist, mathematician, musician, and painter. He has been described
as the archetype of the "Renaissance man", a man infinitely
curious and equally inventive. He is widely considered to be one
of the greatest painters of all time and a universal genius.
Leonardo is famous for his realistic paintings, such
as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, as well as for influential
drawings such as the Vitruvian Man. He conceived of ideas vastly
ahead of his own time, notably conceptually inventing the helicopter,
a tank, the use of concentrated solar power, the calculator, a rudimentary
theory of plate tectonics, the double hull, and many others. Relatively
few of his designs were constructed or were feasible during his
lifetime; modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering
were only in their infancy during the Renaissance. In addition,
he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy,
astronomy, civil engineering, optics, and the study of water (hydrodynamics).
Of his works, only a few paintings survive, together with his notebooks
(scattered among various collections) containing drawings, scientific
diagrams and notes.
Leonardo had no surname in the modern sense; "da
Vinci" simply means "from Vinci". His full birth
name was "Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci", meaning "Leonardo,
son of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci."