Leonardo da Vinci, Master Of Art And Science

16:28 minutes

For anyone who has seen Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” you know that it holds your attention longer than most portraits. The slight smile and the sideways glance gives a glimpse into her inner psychology. To accomplish this allure, the artist carefully engineered the iconic portrait by meticulously studying the muscles and nerves of the face.

[This artist infuses her work with scientific data.]

Leonardo da Vinci may be best known for his artistic masterpieces, but he was also an accomplished engineer and scientist, filling over 7,000 pages of notebook entries with his observations. In his new book, Leonardo da Vinci, author Walter Isaacson explores da Vinci’s investigations of everything from engineering theater set pieces to detailed drawings of the human heart. Isaacson shares how da Vinci combined the arts and sciences to create his masterworks.

Read an excerpt of Isaacson’s new book here and view a selection of da Vinci’s notes and artwork below.

Fetus in the womb. Courtesy of Apic/Contributor/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
The Vitruvian Man. Courtesy of Universal History Archive/Contributor/Universal Images Group/Getty Images.
Church drawings. Courtesy of Print Collector/Contributor/Hulton Fine Art Collection/Getty Images.
The Mona Lisa. Courtesy of Universal Images Group/Contributor/Universal Images Group/Getty Images.
Nerves and muscles of the mouth. Courtesy of Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017.
Dissections of arms and face. Courtesy of Print Collector/Contributor/Hulton Fine Art Collection/Getty Images.
A flying machine, likely for the theater. Courtesy of Claudio Divizia/Hemera/Getty Images Plus.
A perpetual motion machine using a water screw. Courtesy of DEA/VENERANDA BIBLIOTECA AMBROSIANA/Da Vinci Codex Atlanticus/Getty Images.
Water passing obstacles and falling into a pool. Courtesy of GraphicaArtis/Contributor/Archive Photos/Getty Images.
Drawing. Courtesy of Print Collector/Contributor/Hulton Fine Art Collection/Getty Images.
Salvator Mundi. Courtesy of Fine Art/Contributor/Corbis Historical/Getty Images.

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Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson is author of  Einstein: His Life and Universe (Simon & Schuster, 2007) and president and CEO of The Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.

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About Alexa Lim

Alexa Lim is a producer for Science Friday. Her favorite stories involve space, sound, and strange animal discoveries.

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