1. Although he is best known as the painter who created such masterpieces as the “Mona Lisa” and the “Last Supper,” Leonardo da Vinci was also an inventor, scientist, mathematician, engineer, and visionary. He sketched the first bicycle, helicopter, airplane, swinging bridge, motorcar, and hydraulic pump.
2. Leonardo was a self-taught man who, unlike other well-known Renaissance artists, did not have formal education. He did, however, receive lessons at home in reading, writing, and math.
3. Despite being a brilliant artist and inventor, he was first presented at the Milanese court as a musician—he was an accomplished lyre player.
4. Leonardo was the first human to explain why the sky is blue. He correctly attributed it to the way air scatters light from the sun.
5. His famous drawing, “The Vitruvian Man,” shows Leonardo’s fascination with human anatomy, proportions, and geometry. The image has become so popular, it has been reproduced on the euro coin.
6. Leonardo painted two versions of “Virgin on the Rocks.” He completed the first one, which was commissioned by the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception for their chapel, in 1485. However, Leonardo sold the work to someone else for what he considered a fairer price. He then started to create a replacement painting for the Confraternity’s empty chapel, finishing it in 1508.
7. A notoriously slow painter, Leonardo left many of his works unfinished. One of them, “The Adoration of the Magi,” allegedly portrays the young artist himself.
8. Leonardo wrote “backward,” in mirror-image cursive letters. This was not intended as any kind of “Da Vinci code,” but was a matter of ease and expediency for the left-handed artist.
9. A prolific writer, Leonardo took copious notes on sheets of loose paper. They contain drawings, scientific diagrams, thoughts, and observations. These journals are on display in major collections around the world.
10. Long before Charles Darwin formulated his revolutionary theories, Leonardo suggested—based on his study of the erosion of rivers—that the earth was much older than the Bible implied.