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Da Vinci’s mechanical inventions, robot on display
By Xu Wei

Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man, was not only a painter and sculptor but also an architect, mathematician, engineer and inventor, among many other things.

“Dreaming With the Master,” an exhibition of the Italian artist’s mechanical inventions and robots is underway at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum.

It features 80 replicas of his mechanical and robotic inventions, 14 anatomical models based on his drawings, and 16 reproductions of well-known paintings such as the “Mona Lisa” and the “Last Supper.”

The exhibition provides an insight into the polymath’s talents and imagination in the sciences.

Since it opened on August 25, around 52,000 people have visited the exhibition.

“Leonardo da Vinci is best known to Chinese people as an artist,” says Hu Xidan, an official with Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. “We hope to display his versatility and wisdom in other fields. Nearly 500 years after his dweath, his inventions still intrigue us.”

The artist (1452-1519) developed around 1,000 inventions, involving military weapons, aeronautics, hydrodynamics, optics and mechanical engineering.

His inventions include early concepts of bicycle, car, helicopter, glider, submarine and military tank. Five hundred years later, his concepts and inventions have been realized and are now taken for granted.

Da Vinci designed an underwater breathing apparatus, one of his most famous ideas that anticipated modern scuba diving. It had flexible breathing tubes, a sack to collect excess water, a buoy to keep openings above water and a water-proof mask with glass goggles.

He also fashioned a musical instruments, including a lyre, typically a U-shaped string instrument. He himself was famous for playing a silver lyre. His ingenious design has been recreated in the form of a dragon’s head. It is easy to hold and made of an alloy of bronze and silver, as well as willow wood. The sound is sweet and resonant.

Da Vinci was interested in anatomy and medicine. Among his anatomical drawings is a mechanical heart with an opening and closing mechanism to exchange “fresh air and burnt air.”

He had a complete record of the entire human skeleton and each of its individual bones from different angles and from different depths. He is the first to correctly show the curvature of the spine.

He then used his knowledge of biology, anatomy and engineering to design mechanical joints, arms and other limbs and internal workings. He had the beginning of a robot covered with various types of external armor.

Da Vinci was thinking all the time. He thought about light, sound, bird feathers. Everything interested him. He made direct observations of volcanos and realized that the Alps used to be an ocean — this was around 400 years before the theory of plate tectonics was introduced in the 1960s.

Date: Through December 25 (closed on Mondays), 9am-5pm

Venue: 2/F, Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, 2000 Century Ave, Pudong

Tickets: 60 yuan for adults, 30 yuan for students

Tel: 6862-2000, 6854-2000

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