Leonardo Da Vinci and fidget spinners

Venice, Italy

Leonardo da Vinci was not only an amazing Italian artist – best known for his works Mona Lisa and the Last Supper – but also an inventor, engineer and architect. This exhibit, housed in the beautiful Chiesa di San Barnaba in central Venice, makes you feel like you are in a 15th century workshop where the great minds of the time experimented with physical forces of nature. Interactive wooden models of machines from Da Vinci’s journals (his codici) allow you to pull, spin, lift and crank – learning about inertia, forces, friction and gravity, the mechanisms of mechanical and hydraulic engineering. Levers, gears, screws, pulleys and ball bearings reminded us of fidget spinners and building with modern-day Lego Technic sets.

Interactives at the Da Vinci exhibit in Venice, Italy
Interactive machines from Leonardo’s codices demonstrate principles of mechanical engineering.

Conversation starters

1. What defines a machine?  What was a favorite machine from Da Vinci’s codices?

2. How do machines transfer motion from one form to another? (i.e. circular motion to alternate motion)

3. How did Da Vinci’s study of nature for painting and sculpture help him understand engineering?

From flying wings to swinging bridges to a rudimentary bicycle – machines from Da Vinci’s codices.

More info and resources

The permanent exhibit in Venice

History Channel DaVinci and The Code He Lived By