Leonardo da Vinci
By Walter Isaacson
Simon & Schuster, 2017
There’s a surge of interest in the Enlightenment at the moment. Few people embody the spirit of the Age of Reason more than da Vinci, so this new biography is timely.
Da Vinci’s approach revealed patterns. He was insatiably curious. (A memorable to-do list item: “describe the tongue of the woodpecker.”) He’d lose interest in projects after he’d figured them out conceptually; he’d leave things undone. He went deep when studying his subjects; he dissected humans and animals to examine their muscle and bone structures so he could paint them more realistically. He didn’t respect boundaries between disciplines; he’d dive into fluid dynamics, painting, optics, mechanical engineering, and weapon design with the same zeal. Most importantly, he saw connections between these fields , and these connections led to breakthroughs in all of them.
The book’s objective is to show that even though da Vinci was a genius, there are lessons we can glean from his life that can help us be more creative. In our time of overspecialization and goal-setting, da Vinci’s life serves as an example of the virtues of following curiosity for curiosity’s sake, wherever that may lead.