Leonardo invented the first humanoid robot in 1495 when the Duke of Milan asked him to come up with something special to impress his guests at the pageants he held in his castle.
The robot, a knight in armour, could stand, sit, raise its visor, move its arms and open its anatomically correct jaw. It was operated by gears and wheels connected to an elaborate pulley and cable system.
The fact that it was able to make human-like motions was as a result of Leonardo's anatomical research. He spent hours dissecting forty corpses to find out how the human body works. He dissected every muscle which gave him an understanding of how muscles propel bones. His studies of arms and legs helped him understand the lever.
He reasoned that the same principles could be applied to a machine.
In 1500 Leonardo made a mechanical lion for Louis XII. It was able to move forward like a cat. When it stopped walking, it opened its chest and produced lilies, the national emblem of France. In 1515 he made another, more elaborate lion for François I in Château Amboise.
Leonardo had studied the lions kept in an enclosure behind a Palazzo in Florence. The street is still called Via dei Leoni (Lion Street).
Read more about Leonardo da Vinci and his connection with the Loire Valley in Leonardo da Vinci: The Amboise Connection (available from Amazon).
The book was written to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death in 1519 at Clos Lucé, Amboise, France where he spent the last three years of his life.
Post by Pamela
Pamela, a Graduate and Tutor in the History of Art, trained as a magazine journalist at the London College of Printing and has been a freelance writer for over twenty years. She has a passion for history and has published several books on various subjects. Click hear to see all of Pamela’s books.