The Dream of Flying

Page 5




  Ornithopter- Leonardo da Vinci  
  Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) is most famous as an outstanding artist, but was also a scientist. During 1483-99 he found employment at Ludovico il Moro (Sforza) in Milan. Here he spent as much time with fortification- and engineering projects as with architecture and arts. During these years he also made his most important investigations to the problems of flight.

Most of his work concerned ornithopters - flapping-wing flying machines imitating the flight of birds and bats. The major part of his designs was prone-positions types – the perhaps most famous is seen below. Leonardo was aware of man’s limited muscle force. His sketches show aircrafts where the pilot is working with both arms and legs to operate his aircraft. But this was not enough. His constructions would never fly. He made some successful tries with a light hang glider, but unfortunately never fulfilled it.

The picture below shows Leonardo’s own sketch of the inner mechanism of the ornithopter. The picture at bottom gives an impression of the complete ornithopter with wings etc. fitted (based on an image at NASA’s website – thanks NASA!).




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© Lars Henriksson

Updated 2009-05-13