Leonardo da Vinci pulled off gravity genius two centuries before Newton, study reveals
Leonardo da Vinci, Italian polymath and legendary artist, explored the "attraction of one object to another" to deconstruct the science of gravity a century before physicist Galileo Galilei and two centuries before Isaac Newton, a new study has revealed. The results of the study by the scientists at the California Institute of Technology said that Leonardo did detailed experiments that sought to throw light on the nature of gravity.
"Nothing could stop him," Morteza Gharib, an author of the paper and a professor of aeronautics at California Institute of Technology, said in an interview while delving into the study published this month in the journal 'Leonardo'. "He was far ahead in his thinking. It could not wait for the future."
Leonardo has long been famous for his versatile contribution to humanity as an artist, which also includes sketches of flying machines and fighting vehicles. He also made advances in geology, optics, anatomy and engineering.
Leonardo da Vinci's gravity genius: How was it discovered?
Morteza Gharib said that he learned of Leonardo’s gravity experiments while examining an online version of The Codex Arundel, named after a British collector, the Earl of Arundel, who acquired it early in the 17th century.
According to Walter Isaacson, a da Vinci biographer, more than 7,200 pages of Leonardo’s notes and scribbles survive to this day. Da Vinci composed a collection of hundreds of papers between 1478 and 1518, up until a year before his death in 1519. The papers are housed in the British Library. The collection features his famous mirror-writing as well as the diagrams, drawings and texts covering a range of topics in art and science.
"A mysterious triangle", as Gharib called it, caught the attention of the scientists. It reportedly showed an adjoining pitcher and, pouring from its spout, a series of circles that formed the triangle’s hypotenuse. Gharib used a computer program to flip the triangle and the adjacent areas of backward writing.
The static image was then brought to life. "I could see motion," Gharib recalled in the interview. "I could see him pouring stuff out."
The pitcher experiment, Gharib said, established that gravity was a constant force that led to the falling of pitcher's contents with an increasing pace. Leonardo illustrated the gain as the pitcher’s contents falling lower and lower over time while succeeding in deconstructing the gravity.
Gharib said that da Vinci was able to calculate the gravitational constant to an accuracy within 10 per cent of the modern value.
"It’s mind boggling," Gharib said. "That’s the beauty of what Leonardo does."
The researchers add that Galileo and Newton could better address the question of gravity with their defining propositions because they had better tools of mathematics and better ways of measuring time precisely as the objects fell.