Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

by Walter Isaacson
Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

by Walter Isaacson


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The #1 New York Times bestseller from Walter Isaacson brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography that is “a study in creativity: how to define it, how to achieve it...Most important, it is a powerful story of an exhilarating mind and life” (The New Yorker).

Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo da Vinci’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson “deftly reveals an intimate Leonardo” (San Francisco Chronicle) in a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy.

He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history’s most creative genius.

In the “luminous” (Daily Beast) Leonardo da Vinci, Isaacson describes how Leonardo’s delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His life should remind us of the importance to be imaginative and, like talented rebels in any era, to think different. Here, da Vinci “comes to life in all his remarkable brilliance and oddity in Walter Isaacson’s ambitious new biography...a vigorous, insightful portrait” (The Washington Post).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501139161
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 624
Sales rank: 22,464
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Walter Isaacson is the bestselling author of biographies of Jennifer Doudna, Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. He is a professor of history at Tulane and was CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, and editor of Time. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2023. Visit him at Isaacson.Tulane.edu.

Date of Birth:

May 20, 1952

Place of Birth:

New Orleans, LA


Harvard, B.A. in History and Literature, 1974; Oxford (Rhodes Scholar), M.A. in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics

Read an Excerpt

Leonardo da Vinci

The town of Vinci and the church where Leonardo was baptized.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Mam Characters xi

Currency in Italy in 1500 xiii

Note Regarding the Cover xiii

Primary Periods of Leonardo's Life xiii

Timeline xiv

Introduction: I Can Also Paint 1

Chapter 1 Childhood 11

Chapter 2 Apprentice 23

Chapter 3 On His Own 68

Chapter 4 Milan 91

Chapter 5 Leonardo's Notebooks 105

Chapter 6 Court Entertainer 112

Chapter 7 Personal Life 129

Chapter 8 Vitruvian Man 140

Chapter 9 The Horse Monument 160

Chapter 10 Scientist 170

Chapter 11 Birds and Flight 181

Chapter 12 The Mechanical Arts 190

Chapter 13 Math 200

Chapter 14 The Nature of Man 212

Chapter 15 Virgin of the Rocks 223

Chapter 16 The Milan Portraits 236

Chapter 17 The Science of Art 260

Chapter 18 The Last Supper 279

Chapter 19 Personal Turmoil 293

Chapter 20 Florence Again 299

Chapter 21 Saint Anne 315

Chapter 22 Paintings Lost and Found 325

Chapter 23 Cesare Borgia 335

Chapter 24 Hydraulic Engineer 347

Chapter 25 Michelangelo and the Lost Battles 355

Chapter 26 Return to Milan 380

Chapter 27 Anatomy, Round Two 394

Chapter 28 The World and Its Waters 425

Chapter 29 Rome 444

Chapter 30 Pointing the Way 463

Chapter 31 The Mona Lisa 475

Chapter 32 France 495

Chapter 33 Conclusion 517

Coda: Describe the tongue of the woodpecker 525

Abbreviations of Frequently Cited Sources 527

Notes 533

Illustration Credits 571

Index 573

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