I have been looking into Leonardo da Vinci to introduce Science to the children. Da Vinci was practising what we call science today. This was in a time when people still heavily believed the writings of god. They had only really just begun to question the world around them.

We have learned so much about him. Therefore here is a bit about what we have learned. Including the children’s favourite bits.

Early Life of Leonardo Di Vinci

Leonardo Di Vinci was the illegitimate son of a 25-year-old notary, Ser Piero and a peasant girl called Caterina.

Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy, just outside Florence.

His father took custody of him shortly after his birth. While his mother moved to a neighbouring town and married an other man and started a new family life. She continued to have more children with her husband. This eventually suppled Leonardo with a total of 17 half sisters and brothers between both his parents.

Growing up in his father’s Vinci home, Leonardo had access to scholarly texts owned by family and friends. He was also exposed to Vinci’s longstanding painting tradition. When he was about 15 his father apprenticed him to the renowned workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence.


Even as an apprentice, Leonardo demonstrated his colossal talent. Indeed, his genius seems to have seeped into a number of pieces produced by the Verrocchio’s workshop. Examples can be seen in the pieces coming from the workshop during the period 1470 to 1475.
For example, one of Leonardo’s first big breaks was to paint an angel within Baptism of Christ. Leonardo was so much better than his master’s that it allegedly resulted in Verrocchio resolving never to paint again. Leonardo stayed in the Verrocchio workshop until 1477.

Setting up on his own.

In 1477 he set up a shingle for himself.
In search of new challenges and the big bucks, he entered the service of the Duke of Milan in 1482. Abandoning his first commission in Florence, “The Adoration of the Magic” to do so.
He spent 17 years in Milan, leaving only after Duke Ludovico Sforza’s fall from power in 1499.

It was during these years that Leonardo hit his stride, reaching new heights of scientific and artistic achievement.
He kept Leonardo painting, sculpting and designing elaborate court festivals. He also put Leonardo to work designing weapons, buildings and machinery.

Studies of Science

From 1485 to 1490, Leonardo produced a studies on loads of subjects. Including nature, flying machines, geometry, mechanics, municipal construction, canals and architecture (designing everything from churches to fortresses). His studies from this period contain designs for many advanced weapons. This included a tank and other war vehicles, various combat devices, and submarines.

Also during this period, Leonardo produced his first anatomical studies. His Milan workshop was a veritable hive of activity, buzzing with apprentices and students. Alas, Leonardo’s interests were so broad, and he was so often compelled by new subjects. Many of which he usually failed to finish.

This lack of “stick-to-it-ness” resulted in his completing only about six works in these 17 years. These included “The Last Supper” and “The Virgin on the Rocks,” . He died leaving dozens of paintings and projects unfinished or unrealized. He seemed to have spent most of his time studying science. This resulted in him going out into nature and observing things or by locking himself away in his workshop. He would spend his time cutting up bodies or pondering his observations.

Between 1490 and 1495 he developed his habit of recording his studies in meticulously illustrated notebooks. His work covered four main themes: painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and human anatomy. These studies and sketches were collected into various codices and manuscripts. These are now hungrily collected by museums and individuals. (Bill Gates recently paid a staggering $30 million for the Codex Leicester!).

Back to Milan

After the invasion by the French in 1499. Ludovico Sforza fell from power, Leonardo was left to search for a new patron.

Over the next 16 years, Leonardo worked and travelled throughout Italy for a number of employers. One of which being the renounced Cesare Borgia. He travelled for a year with Borgia’s army as a military engineer and even met Niccolo Machiavelli.
Leonardo also designed a Bridge to span the “golden horn” in Constantinople during this period. He received a commission which saw him paired with the help of Machiavelli, to paint the Battle of Anghiari.

Mona Lisa

About 1503, Leonardo reportedly began work on the Mona Lisa.
On July 9, 1504, he received notice of the death of his father, Ser Piero.
Through the contrivances of his meddling half brothers and sisters, Leonardo was deprived of any inheritance. The death of a beloved uncle also resulted in a scuffle over inheritance. This time Leonardo beat out his scheming siblings and wound up with use of the uncle’s land and money.

From 1513 to 1516, he worked in Rome, maintaining a workshop and undertaking a variety of projects for the Pope. He continued his studies of human anatomy and physiology. But the Pope forbade him from dissecting bodies, which really slowed da Vinci advance of knowledge.

King Francis I

After the death of his patron Giuliano de Medici in March of 1516. Leonardo was offered the title of Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King by Francis I in France.

His last and perhaps most generous patron. Francis I provided Leonardo with a fantastic job, including a stipend manor house near the royal chateau at Amboise.

Although suffering from a paralysis of the right hand, Leonardo was still able to draw and teach.
He produced studies for the Virgin Mary from “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne”, studies of cats, horses, dragons, St. George, anatomical studies, studies on the nature of water, drawings of the Deluge, and of various machines.

Death of Leonardo

Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France. Legend has it that King Francis was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo’s head in his arms.

If you would like to see many of Da Vinci’s masterpieces and Sketches. Then head to this website and have enjoyed looking through at his sketches of his flying machines. The masterpieces created by this amazing man really are worth seeing and We have found his life very interesting.

Resources and Activities:

Letters to teachers – This is a fantastic resource for planning Leonardo Di Vinci projects.

History of Da Vinci – this is where I started. This web offers a brief history of leonardo’s life and a brief description of his life.

Build a parachute – this is an activity based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s design he made in the 1940s. (free no need to create account just close windows and the page comes up anyway)

Here you will see our other Project posts