Another da Vinci discovery

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A historian doing a detailed study of Leonardo da Vinci’s research on the nature of friction has discovered his first notes on the subject, where da Vinci outlined the laws of friction two hundred years before they were finally documented by a French scientist.

“The sketches and text show Leonardo understood the fundamentals of friction in 1493,” says Hutchings. “He knew that the force of friction acting between two sliding surfaces is proportional to the load pressing the surfaces together and that friction is independent of the apparent area of contact between the two surfaces. These are the ‘laws of friction’ that we nowadays usually credit to a French scientist, Guillaume Amontons, working 200 years later.”

It is an unfortunate thing that da Vinci lived and worked in Italy. Though this was where the Renaissance blossomed, it is also the place where some scientists at the time were persecuted for being too honest about their research. To protect himself da Vinci confined his scientific genius to his private diaries, written in a backwards script he created so that no one could easily understand what he wrote. Thus, while his brilliance as a painter was recognized in his lifetime and after, the discoveries he had made about engineering and science were lost for literally centuries.

I wonder if there are individuals, especially in the climate field, who are now experimenting with similar techniques to hide their work.


  • Joe

    Could you imagine what Devinci would have done with some technology, this man was way beyond his time, the early contraptions with say a internal combustion engine most likely could have flown.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Indeed. Archimedes, Hero of Alexandria and Leonardo are the three leading “just missed it” men who might have, had things gone a bit differently, initiated an Industrial Revolution centuries or even millenia before it actually happened in 18th century England. Particularly with respect to the two Greeks, just imagine where we’d probably be now if steam power had debuted in the 3rd century B.C.

  • “I wonder if there are individuals, especially in the climate field, who are now experimenting with similar techniques to hide their work.”

    Robert, that you would even consider such a notion says much about our country: none of it encouraging.

  • Localfluff

    da Vinci today would’ve been bogged down in some bugged code and bureaucracy and would never have gotten anywhere. He’d even study contemporary law to find out what is stopping him, and that is a confirmation of the end.

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