Leonardo Da Vinci

By Walter Isaacson

ISBN 9781501139154

Price $35.00

The author of the acclaimed bestsellers Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography.

Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy.

He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and technology. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history’s most creative genius.

His creativity, like that of other great innovators, came from having wide-ranging passions. He peeled flesh off the faces of cadavers, drew the muscles that move the lips, and then painted history’s most memorable smile. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. Isaacson also describes how Leonardo’s lifelong enthusiasm for staging theatrical productions informed his paintings and inventions.

Leonardo’s delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His life should remind us of the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it—to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different.

-Via publishers Simon & Schuster

Genius is a word often used, but rarely appropriate. In Walter Isaacson's new biography, Leonardo da Vinci, we get a glimpse into one of history's true great minds.  So often with historical figures the veil of time clouds the truth, leaving us guessing the why and how of what they did. Thankfully, Leonard left us thousands of pages of notebooks, written in mirrored script (right to left and backwards) by the way, that allow us to follow his infinite curiosity that led to his enduring legacy. Many know his simple but elegant drawing The Vitruvian Man, but what surprised me was that it was drawn not as a study of the human body, but as a desire to transpose human proportions into architecture, merging man and his creations. Or the Mona Lisa, whose subtle smile we all know, was worked on for almost twenty years. Leonardo would often sit and meditate on it for hours at a time, only adding a few strokes here and there. Never satisfied with it, it only was made public and displayed after his death. And the list goes on. Isaacson leaves no stone unturned in this exhaustive biography, yet has created a wonderfully readable and inspiring account of one of the greatest figures in human history. The book will not just leave you with a greater appreciation for Leonardo da Vinci, but also for the capabilities of a curious and open mind.
---Carter