Book Review: Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

October 01, 2020

Leonardo Da Vinci, the quintessential “Renaissance man”, is renowned for paintings such as The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. He stood alone in his insatiable pursuit of the arts, science, nature, and technology. In this biography penned by Walter Isaacson, over 7,200 pages of Leonardo’s personal notebooks were observed, illuminating the wonder with which Leonardo encountered the world.

Leonardo’s keen eye for observation fueled his highly varied interests, which included botany, architecture, mechanics, physics, cartography, anatomy, and art. He ques- tioned and sought insights on topics in which he lacked a depth of knowledge, leading to breakthroughs. It could be argued that the most famous smile in history (Mona Lisa) would not have been possible without Da Vinci’s extensive study of human anatomy, as well as his understanding of optics, perspective and shadow work.

Isaacson suggests converting curiosity into pursuits, which expands perspective, fuels further curiosity, and culminates in ingenu- ity. It is through this continual striving that advancement is borne. In “the informa- tion age” we are in, with access to more resources and knowledge than at any other point in history, revelation and breakthroughs may be one article, book, museum, or observation away.

It has been said for more than a century that “everything that can be invented has been invented”. Fortunately, there contin- ue to be forward-minded individuals inno- vating at firms such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, & Tesla. That said, it important to not lose perspective of the big picture. Having a broader interests in the world helps one avoid being narrowly focused on one thing. Once great minds of our time are encouraged by world leaders to focus on pivotal societal challenges, such as over- population, food shortage and a myriad of environmental changes, will we likely see true breakthroughs. The world could use more “Renaissance men” like Da Vinci.