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Leonardo's Brain: Understanding Da Vinci's Creative Genius

Leonardo's Brain: Understanding Da Vinci's Creative Genius

4.0 2
by Leonard Shlain, Kimberly Brooks (Other), Tiffany Shlain (Other)

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Best-selling author Leonard Shlain explores the life, art, and mind of Leonardo da Vinci, seeking to explain his singularity by looking at his achievements in art, science, psychology, and military strategy and then employing state of the art left-right brain scientific research to explain his universal genius. Shlain shows that no other person in human history has


Best-selling author Leonard Shlain explores the life, art, and mind of Leonardo da Vinci, seeking to explain his singularity by looking at his achievements in art, science, psychology, and military strategy and then employing state of the art left-right brain scientific research to explain his universal genius. Shlain shows that no other person in human history has excelled in so many different areas as da Vinci and he peels back the layers to explore the how and the why.Shlain asserts that Leonardo's genius came from a unique creative ability that allowed him to understand and excel in a wide range of fields. From here Shlain jumps off and discusses the history of and current research on human creativity that involves different modes of thinking and neuroscience .The author also boldly speculates on whether or not the qualities of Leonardo's brain and his creativity presage the future evolution of the human species.Leonardo's Brain uses da Vinci as a starting point for an exploration of human creativity. With his lucid style, and his remarkable ability to discern connections in a wide range of fields, Shlain brings the reader into the world of history's greatest mind. .

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Shlain's ability to synthesize not only information but also genuine wisdom across multiple and disparate disciplines was extraordinary." —Al Gore"By exploring Leonardo da Vinci's brain through the lens of contemporary neuroscience, Leonard Shlain not only celebrates da Vinci's legendary creativity, he shows how we can integrate and strengthen both sides of our minds and tap into the amazing possibilities within ourselves."—Arianna Huffington"This book is a gift from the heavens where Leonard Shlain is today and another bright example of his force and spirit shining through the prism of the mind of Leonardo da Vinci." —Norman LearPraise for Art & Physics:"a Tour de Force... a brilliant, accessible and visionary look the most revolutionary artists and scientists from the golden Age of Greece to the present." The Los Angeles TimesPraise for The Alphabet vs. The Goddess"Bold and fascinating" - The Washington Post Book World
The Scientist
He was the archetypal genius. A painter. A scientist. An inventor. An engineer. Even today, he remains the dictionary definition of a Renaissance man: Leonardo da Vinci. In Leonardo’s Brain, surgeon and best-selling author Leonard Shlain undertakes a hypothetical dissection of the ancient master’s intellect, attributing the roots of his creativity to a particular arrangement of his gray and white matter. . . .Shlain applies modern neuroscience to probe one of history’s most innovative brains and uses da Vinci as a lens through which to view the broader issues of brain organization, creativity, and consciousness. . . . The work stands as the last in a line of probing and entertaining books from a thinker who possessed his own brand of genius.
Civil Engineering
Shlain succeeds in keeping Leonardo's Brain accessible and enjoyable. It is intellectual while remaining conversational and is certainly unlike the many, many other books written about da Vinci.
Leonardo’s 500-year-old story continues to compel because, as Shlain writes, 'No other individual in the known history of the human species attained such distinction both in science and art as the hyper-curious, undereducated, illegitimate country boy from Vinci.'
San Francisco Book Review
The importance of Shlains’s end of life research offers us hopeful foundations that we can build upon in the areas when neurology and psychology meet. Now, not only are we able to study the effects of a stroke with a clearer idea of how to counteract the damage, we understand the differences in basic personality types.
Kirkus Reviews
An enthusiastic mixture of history, neuroscience and pop psychology that aims to explain the brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). In this study of the great polymath, surgeon and best-selling author Shlain (Sex, Time, and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Evolution, 2003), who died in 2009, stresses that his subject's painting skills quickly made him famous, although he also earned a living as a sculptor, architect and military engineer. Obsessively curious, da Vinci's thoughts on science, engineering, inventions, anatomy and art take up 13,000 pages of prose, plans and drawings. According to Shlain, da Vinci anticipated Newton's laws, Descartes' analytic geometry, Darwin's view of species and Rayleigh's explanation of why the sky is blue. His fascination with the human body produced celebrated anatomical illustrations, including the first accurate descriptions of structures in the heart, eye and brain. Shlain has no doubt that he invented the submarine, parachute, helicopter, bicycle, ball bearing, canal lock, metal screw and innumerable other labor-saving machines that anticipated the Industrial Revolution. Sadly, almost all these achievements were confined to his journals, which were not published during his lifetime. The mind of such an extraordinary man must also be extraordinary, Shlain writes, and he proceeds to deliver a fine overview of brain function and the psychology of creativity—although his belief that the brain has a rational side (the left) and a spiritual side (the right) is considered a vast oversimplification by scientists who are also skeptical of extrasensory perception, which the author feels explains many of Leonardo's amazing insights. Shlain admits that he is taking an extreme position, but many readers will forgive him because he has written an entertaining mixture of facts and speculation on one of history's immortals.

Product Details

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st Edition
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Leonard Shlain was a best-selling author and San Francisco surgeon. Admired among artists, scientists, philosophers, anthropologists and educators, Shlain authored three best-selling books: Art & Physics, Alphabet vs. The Goddess and Sex, Time, and Power. He delivered multimedia presentations based upon his books in venues around the world including Harvard, The New York Museum of Modern Art, CERN, Los Alamos, The Florence Academy of Art and the European Council of Ministers. His fans include Al Gore, Norman Lear and singer Bjork who credited Shlain 's Alphabet vs. The Goddess with inspiring her in her single "Wanderlust" and the album Volta.Dr. Shlain was a surgeon for 38 years at California Pacific Medical Center where he headed the Laparoscopic Surgery Department and an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSF. Shlain began his surgical residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York and then completed it at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco where he set up his general surgical practice in 1969. In 1973, he volunteered and served as a trauma surgeon in Israel during the Yom Kippur War. An early pioneer of gallbladder and hernia laparoscopic surgery in 1990, he was flown around the world to train doctors in the new techniques, patented several surgical instruments and specialized in gallbladder and hernia operations.Al Gore said: "Leonard Shlain was a personal inspiration to me and so many others. His ability to synthesize not only information but also genuine wisdom across multiple and disparate disciplines was extraordinary. His talent for communicating to the rest of us what he had discovered was a rare gift"Shlain died in May 2009 at the age of 71 after a battle with brain cancer.

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Leonardo's Brain: Understanding Da Vinci's Creative Genius 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
JurgenSchulze More than 1 year ago
Both the book cover and the introduction acquaint the reader with the fact that this was Shlain's last book, with him passing away virtually within days of its completion. Hence, one can only imagine what pressure must have existed for him to ensure that this work could be finished in time. Having said this, and without wishing to be unkind to either Slain or his memory, I am always somewhat suspicious of a book that starts off by confirming that the subject of the book (in this case: Leonardo's da Vinci's brain) was unavailable at the time of writing because it was not preserved. Consequently, what we are looking at is the "bigger picture", namely the footprint that da Vinci left, and Slain attempts to draw conclusions from that whilst giving the reader a gentle, yet thorough, introduction to neuroscience. I am accustomed to art critics always seeing so much more in a painting or drawing than meets the naked eye, and always wonder whether they have the better abilities to see beyond the canvas itself, or are just giving in to a flight of fancy (and at times, wishful thinking). Invariably, Shlain turns at times into such art critic , and that's when matters get difficult because either you allow yourself to be guided by him, or you have to admit that you see matters differently - at which time the entire excursion becomes shaky. Regardless of whether one agrees with Shlain at times, all the time, or not at all when it comes to assessing da Vinci's work, the book is worth reading. It is well written and, at the very least, vastly informative. In short, it is a legacy worth leaving.
shellyschultz More than 1 year ago
I could not have imagined a better description of Leonardo from every aspect including his and our brain function ...This was a very brilliantly conceived and beautifully written book and I am so very glad to have stumbled upon it...Shlain is a superb writer and his family must deserve much credit for finishing the book after his passing....He left for us all a very important book.....Thank you the entire Shlain family.... sschultz