Terminator, The Matrix, Wall-E, Get Smart … we’ve always been fascinated with gadgets, robots and machines. We generally tend to think of it as a 21st century construct, yet the earliest conceptualisation of robots can be found as far back as the 4th century BC.
One of the first recorded designs of a humanoid robot was made by Leonardo da Vinci in around 1495 AD. Based on his anatomical research recorded in the Vitruvian Man, Da Vinci's notebooks, rediscovered in the 1950s, contain detailed drawings of a mechanical knight in armour which was able to sit up, wave its arms and move its head and jaw.
Renowned primarily as a painter Da Vinci is revered for his technological ingenuity. His areas of interest included invention, painting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, botany, astronomy, geology, anatomy, history, cartography, sculpting, science, music and literature.
He conceptualised flying machines, a type of armoured fighting vehicle, concentrated solar power, an adding machine and the double hull. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering were only in their infancy during the Renaissance.
Some of his smaller inventions, however, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded. Today, Leonardo is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived.
Nelson Provincial Museum is showcasing Da Vinci’s genius with an exhibition of some of his most ground-breaking technologies.
The life work of three generations of Florentine artisans, Da Vinci’s Robots and Machines is an interactive exhibition from the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci in Florence, Italy. All of the exhibits are handcrafted by the Artisans of Florence using the same materials and techniques used in the 15th century.
The exhibit brings to life 80 handcrafted machines including armoured tanks, a mechanical lion, robotic drummer, flying machines and a bicycle. A replica of Da Vinci’s enigmatic painting Mona Lisa will also be on display.