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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index D > Leonardo da Vinci Quotes

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Leonardo da Vinci
(15 Apr 1452 - 2 May 1519)

Italian painter, draftsman and physicist.


Science Quotes by Leonardo da Vinci (17 quotes)

A bird is an instrument working according to mathematical law, which instrument it is within the capacity of man to reproduce with all its movements, but not with a corresponding degree of strength, though it is deficient only in the power of maintaining equilibrium. We may therefore say that such an instrument constructed by man is lacking in nothing except the life of the bird, and this life must needs be supplied from that of man.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Of the Bird's Movement' from Codice Atlantico 161 r.a., in Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks, trans. E. MacCurdy (1906), Vol. 1, 153.
Science quotes on:  |  Airplane (16)  |  Bird (57)  |  Construction (36)  |  Flight (29)  |  Instrument (40)  |  Law (273)  |  Life (460)  |  Mechanism (25)

A bird maintains itself in the air by imperceptible balancing, when near to the mountains or lofty ocean crags; it does this by means of the curves of the winds which as they strike against these projections, being forced to preserve their first impetus bend their straight course towards the sky with divers revolutions, at the beginning of which the birds come to a stop with their wings open, receiving underneath themselves the continual buffetings of the reflex courses of the winds.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Flight', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 471.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (84)  |  Balance (24)  |  Bird (57)  |  Flight (29)  |  Mountain (66)  |  Ocean (56)  |  Wind (28)  |  Wing (16)

Although nature commences with reason and ends in experience it is necessary for us to do the opposite, that is to commence as I said before with experience and from this to proceed to investigate the reason.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Movement and Weight', from The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 546.
Science quotes on:  |  Experience (132)  |  Nature (534)  |  Reason (173)

Experience is never at fault; it is only your judgment that is in error in promising itself such results from experience as are not caused by our experiments. For having given a beginning, what follows from it must necessarily be a natural development of such a beginning, unless it has been subject to a contrary influence, while, if it is affected by any contrary influence, the result which ought to follow from the aforesaid beginning will be found to partake of this contrary influence in a greater or less degree in proportion as the said influence is more or less powerful than the aforesaid beginning.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Philosophy', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 70.
Science quotes on:  |  Beginning (71)  |  Development (122)  |  Error (152)  |  Experience (132)  |  Experiment (369)  |  Fault (13)  |  Influence (47)  |  Judgment (39)  |  Result (129)

If a man has a tent made of linen of which the apertures have all been stopped up, and be it twelve bracchia across (over twenty-five feet) and twelve in depth, he will be able to throw himself down from any height without sustaining injury. [His concept of the parachute.]
— Leonardo da Vinci
In Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman, Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 3-4, which notes twelve bracchia is over 25 feet. There are other translations with different units. Da Vinci's illustration in his notebook showed a pyramid-shaped parachute below which hung a man suspended by a few short cords.
Science quotes on:  |  Aeronautics (8)  |  Aperture (4)  |  Injury (9)  |  Linen (3)  |  Tent (3)

In the mountains of Parma and Piacenza, multitudes of shells and corals filled with worm-holes may be seen still adhering to the rocks, and when I was making the great horse at Milan a large sack of those which had been found in these parts was brought to my workshop by some peasants... The red stone of the mountains of Verona is found with shells all intermingled, which have become part of this stone... And if you should say that these shells have been and still constantly are being created in such places as these by the nature of the locality or by potency of the heavens in these spots, such an opinion cannot exist in brains possessed of any extensive powers of reasoning because the years of their growth are numbered upon the outer coverings of their shells; and both small and large ones may be seen; and these would not have grown without feeding, or fed without movement, and here [embedded in rock] they would not have been able to move... The peaks of the Apennines once stood up in a sea, in the form of islands surrounded by salt water... and above the plains of Italy where flocks of birds are flying today, fishes were once moving in large shoals.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Physical Geography', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 355-6, 359.
Science quotes on:  |  Coral (5)  |  Fish (33)  |  Fossil (73)  |  Island (8)  |  Mountain (66)  |  Opinion (81)  |  Peak (7)  |  Plain (11)  |  Sea (57)  |  Shell (17)

Nature being capricious and taking pleasure in creating and producing a continuous sucession of lives and forms because she knows that they serve to increase her terrestrial substance, is more ready and swift in her creating than time is in destroying, and therefore she has ordained that many animals shall serve as food one for the other; and as this does not satisfy her desire she sends forth frequently certain noisome and pestilential vapours and continual plagues upon the vast accumulations and herds of animals and especially upon human beings who increase very rapidly because other animals do not feed upon them.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Philosophy', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1 80.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (143)  |  Creation (129)  |  Destruction (52)  |  Disease (170)  |  Food (77)  |  Food Chain (3)  |  Form (70)  |  Herd (3)  |  Human (168)  |  Life (460)  |  Nature (534)  |  Plague (30)  |  Pleasure (52)  |  Succession (30)

Nature is a source of truth. Experience does not ever err, it is only your judgment that errs in promising itself results which are not caused by your experiments.
— Leonardo da Vinci
The Notebook. As cited in Edward Schwartz, One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward (2003), 38, with caption "examining objects in all their diversity." Also quoted in Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers (1983), 350.
Science quotes on:  |  Cause (122)  |  Err (2)  |  Error (152)  |  Experience (132)  |  Experiment (369)  |  Judgment (39)  |  Nature (534)  |  Promise (13)  |  Result (129)  |  Source (33)  |  Truth (450)

Perspective is a most subtle discovery in mathematical studies, for by means of lines it causes to appear distant that which is near, and large that which is small.
— Leonardo da Vinci
Attributed.
Science quotes on:  |  Discovery (360)  |  Line (18)  |  Mathematics (367)  |  Perspective (4)

Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Aphorisms', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938 ), Vol. 1, 98.
Science quotes on:  |  Pupil (10)  |  Student (54)  |  Teacher (54)

The body of the earth is of the nature of a fish... because it draws water as its breath instead of air.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Philosophy', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1 70.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (84)  |  Breath (15)  |  Earth (250)  |  Fish (33)  |  Water (122)

The eye, the window of the soul, is the chief means whereby the understanding can most fully and abundantly appreciate the infinite works of Nature; and the ear is second.
— Leonardo da Vinci
As quoted in Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers (1983), 350.
Science quotes on:  |  Appreciation (12)  |  Ear (9)  |  Eye (67)  |  Infinite (39)  |  Means (25)  |  Nature (534)  |  Second (8)  |  Soul (54)  |  Understanding (231)  |  Window (11)  |  Work (198)

The [mechanical] bird I have described ought to be able by the help of the wind to rise to a great height, and this will prove to be its safety; since even if... revolutions [of the winds] were to befall it, it would still have time to regain a condition of equilibrium; provided that its various parts have a great power of resistance, so that they can safely withstand the fury and violence of the descent, by the aid of the defenses which I have mentioned; and its joints should be made of strong tanned hide, and sewn with cords of strong raw silk. And let no one encumber himself with iron bands, for these are very soon broken at the joints or else they become worn out, and consequently it is well not to encumber oneself with them.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Of the Bird's Movement' from Sul Voio degli Uccelli, 8 [7] r. in Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks, trans. E. MacCurdy (1906), 153-4.
Science quotes on:  |  Bird (57)  |  Equilibrium (12)  |  Flight (29)  |  Iron (33)  |  Mechanism (25)  |  Resistance (14)  |  Wind (28)

There are many occasions when the muscles that form the lips of the mouth move the lateral muscles that are joined to them, and there are an equal number of occasions when these lateral muscles move the lips of this mouth, replacing it where it cannot return of itself, because the function of muscle is to pull and not to push except in the case of the genitals and the tongue.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Anatomy', in The Notebooks of Leonardoda Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 152.
Science quotes on:  |  Lip (2)  |  Mouth (10)  |  Muscle (24)  |  Occasion (7)  |  Tongue (8)

There is no result in nature without a cause; understand the cause and you will have no need of the experiment.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Philosophy', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy, (1938) Vol. 1, 70.
Science quotes on:  |  Experiment (369)  |  Nature (534)  |  Result (129)  |  Understanding (231)

This work should commence with the conception of man, and should describe the nature of the womb, and how the child inhabits it, and in what stage it dwells there, and the manner of its quickening and feeding, and its growth, and what interval there is between one stage of growth and another, and what thing drives it forth from the body of the mother, and for what reason it sometimes emerges from the belly of its mother before the due time.
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Anatomy', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 139.
Science quotes on:  |  Baby (6)  |  Child (90)  |  Conception (29)  |  Growth (70)  |  Man (258)  |  Mother (25)  |  Premature (11)  |  Womb (3)

Why are the bones of great fishes, and oysters and corals and various other shells and sea-snails, found on the high tops of mountains that border the sea, in the same way in which they are found in the depths of the sea?
— Leonardo da Vinci
'Physical Geography', in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, trans. E. MacCurdy (1938), Vol. 1, 361.
Science quotes on:  |  Bone (26)  |  Coral (5)  |  Fish (33)  |  Fossil (73)  |  Mountain (66)  |  Oyster (4)  |  Sea (57)  |  Shell (17)



Quotes by others about Leonardo da Vinci (4)

The modern version of Buridan's ass [a figurative description of a man of indecision] has a Ph.D., but no time to grow up as he is undecided between making a Leonardo da Vinci in the test tube or planting a Coca Cola sign on Mars.
Voices in the Labyrinth: Nature, Man, and Science (1979), 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Indecision (2)  |  PhD (3)

For the pre-Darwinian age had come to be regarded as a Dark Age in which men still believed that the book of Genesis was a standard scientific treatise, and that the only additions to it were Galileo'a demonstration of Leonardo da Vinci's simple remark that the earth is a moon of the sun, Sir Humphrey Davy's invention of the safety lamp, the discovery of electricity, the application of steam to industrial purposes, and the penny post.
Back to Methuselah: A Metabiological Pentateuch‎ (1921), viii.
Science quotes on:  |  Dark Ages (4)  |  Charles Darwin (216)  |  Sir Humphry Davy (39)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Earth (250)  |  Electricity (82)  |  Galileo Galilei (64)  |  Genesis (10)  |  Industry (49)  |  Invention (174)  |  Moon (78)  |  Safety Lamp (3)  |  Steam Power (2)  |  Sun (115)

The pre-Darwinian age had come to be regarded as a Dark Age in which men still believed that the book of Genesis was a standard scientific treatise, and that the only additions to it were Galileo's demonstration of Leonardo da Vinci's simple remark that the earth is a moon of the sun, Newton's theory of gravitation, Sir Humphry Davy's invention of the safety-lamp, the discovery of electricity, the application of steam to industrial purposes, and the penny post.
Back to Methuselah: a Metabiological Pentateuch (1921), viii.
Science quotes on:  |  Addition (12)  |  Application (72)  |  Belief (139)  |  Charles Darwin (216)  |  Sir Humphry Davy (39)  |  Demonstration (29)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Earth (250)  |  Electricity (82)  |  Galileo Galilei (64)  |  Genesis (10)  |  Industry (49)  |  Invention (174)  |  Man (258)  |  Moon (78)  |  Sir Isaac Newton (176)  |  Penny (2)  |  Post (2)  |  Purpose (66)  |  Remark (9)  |  Safety Lamp (3)  |  Standard (15)  |  Steam (15)  |  Sun (115)  |  Theory Of Gravitation (3)  |  Treatise (8)

Thou, O God, dost sell unto us all good things at the price of labour.
Quotation credited to Leonardo da Vinci that she chose for her bookplate, and which reflects her outlook on her work.
In Philip D. McMaster and Michael Heidelberger, 'Florence Rena Sabin', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), Vol. 34, 272.
Science quotes on:  |  Labour (27)  |  Price (9)  |  Selling (2)


See also:
  • todayinsci icon 15 Apr - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of da Vinci's birth.
  • book icon The Science of Leonardo: Inside the Mind of the Great Genius of the Renaissance, by Fritjof Capra. - book suggestion.
  • booklist icon Booklist for Leonardo da Vinci.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton