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Leonardo da Vinci: Part 6 – Did He Believe in God?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Leonardo da Vinci - Religion

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Almost every human has a theology of his own about God. The Jews believe that they are the Chosen People of God. Many Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the only-begotten ‘Son of God’. The Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last and greatest prophet of God in human history. The Agnostics believe that mortal humans do not have enough intelligence or information to determine if God exists or not. And, the Atheists say that the entity called God does not exist.

Leonardo da Vinci, was a mysterious, strange person. For hundreds of years, researchers and writers have debated his actual religious beliefs and leanings. While some claim he was a Christian others have labelled him as an absent-minded Roman Catholic, an Agnostic, the forerunner of the Protestant Reformation, and even as an Atheist.

Among his contemporaries, Leonardo da Vinci was the most intelligent human. Hence, people would want to know what his theology was. Perhaps Leonardo probably had a good theology, and even the best theology that could help everyone in this life and in the next life, if there is one.

About Leonardi da Vinci, Giorgio Vasari wrote:

“[Leonardo’s] cast of mind was so heretical that he did not adhere to any religion, thinking perhaps that it was better to be a philosopher than a Christian.”

So, What was Leonardo’s theology? Was it the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church? If not, what did Leonardo base his beliefs on?

There was no formal scientific research in the Middle Ages. Unable to suppress the writings of the ancient Greeks, the Roman Catholic Church allowed the teaching of ancient Greek science as long as it did not conflict with the Holy Bible and its own teachings. The scholars had to accept the observations of nature passed down from Aristotle and other ancient Greeks.

The Roman Catholic Church forced the people to implicitly believe and follow its doctrines. The Church would not permit free inquiry. It imprisoned, tortured, and executed truth-seekers. Leonardo was a truth-seeker, and this fact would not endear him to the Roman Catholic Church. It was not so with most Italian contemporaries of Leonardo. Their ultimate goal was to have the eternal rapture in Heaven.

Leonardo’s writings show that he based all his beliefs on reason. He wrote:

“I can never do other than blame many of those ancients who said that the sun was no larger than it appears; among these being Epicurus; and I believe that he reasoned thus from the effects of a light placed in our atmosphere equidistant from the centre; whoever sees it never sees it diminished in size at any distance.

“Those who study the ancients and not the words of Nature are stepsons and not sons of Nature, the mother of all good authors.”

Reason is the capacity to perceive reality, applying logic, establishing and verifying facts and beliefs based on new or existing information.

The opposite of ‘reason’ is ‘faith’.

Faith is confidence or trust in a person, thing, deity, view, or in the doctrines or teachings of a religion, as well as confidence based on some degree of warrant. It can also be a belief that is not based on proof. The word faith is often used as a synonym for hope, trust, or belief.

The best definition I have come across for faith is by Mark Twain: “Faith is being convinced that what you don’t believe is true.”

Through reason we deduce that human beings built the pyramids of Egypt by themselves, while faith might lead us to conjecture that aliens helped the ancient Egyptians to build them.

So, ‘faith’ is believing in something without acceptable ‘reason’.

Leonardo valued reason much more than faith. He was a great artist, but he was also a great scientist of his age. Judging from his writings, his main goal in life was to know as much about the real universe as he could. He was the first to question the statements of Aristotle, Ptolemy, and other Greek and Roman philosophers. He stated that their teachings ought to be tested and challenged and not accepted as axioms.

Leonardo praised reason-based understanding and criticized faith-based beliefs. Here are some excerpts from his writings:

“I am well aware that because I did not study the ancients, some foolish men will accuse me of being uneducated. They will say that because I did not learn from their schoolbooks, I am unqualified to express an opinion. But I would reply that my conclusions are drawn from firsthand experience, unlike the scholars who only believe what they read in books written by others.”

“Although I cannot quote from authors in the same way they do, I shall rely on a much worthier thing, actual experience, which is the only thing that could ever have properly guided the men that they learn from.”

“These scholars strut around in a pompous way, without any thoughts of their own, equipped only with the thoughts of others, and they want to stop me from having my own thoughts. And if they despise me for being an inventor, then how much more should they be despised for not being inventors, but followers and reciters of the works of others.”

“When the followers and reciters of the works of others are compared to those who are inventors and interpreters between Nature and man, it is as though they are non-existent mirror images of some original. Given that it is only by chance that we are invested with the human form, I might think of them as being a herd of animals.”

“Those who try to censor knowledge do harm to both knowledge and love, because love is the offspring of knowledge, and the passion of love grows in proportion to the certainty of knowledge. The more we know about nature, the more we can be certain of what we know, and so the more love we can feel for nature as a whole.”

“Of what use are those who try to restrict what we know to only those things that are easy to comprehend, often because they themselves are not inclined to learn more about a particular subject, like the subject of the human body.”

“And yet they want to comprehend the mind of God, talking about it as though they had already dissected it into parts. Still, they remain unaware of their own bodies, of the realities of their surroundings, and even unaware of their own stupidity.”

“Along with the scholars, they despise the mathematical sciences, which are the only true sources of information about those things which they claim to know so much about. Instead, they talk about miracles and write about things that nobody could ever know, things that cannot be proven by any evidence in nature.”

“It seems to me that all studies are vain and full of errors unless they are based on experience and can be tested by experiment, in other words, they can be demonstrated to our senses. For if we are doubtful of what our senses perceive then how much more doubtful should we be of things that our senses cannot perceive, like the nature of God and the soul and other such things over which there are endless disputes and controversies.”

“Wherever there is no true science and no certainty of knowledge, there will be conflicting speculations and quarrels. However, whenever things are proven by scientific demonstration and known for certain, then all quarreling will cease. And if controversy should ever arise again, then our first conclusions must have been questionable.”

As often happens with great geniuses, stories and legends have been woven around Leonardo’s death. In the 1568 enlarged edition of “The Lives“, Giorgio Vasari describes Leonardo’s final months. He claims that Leonardo, regretted not having followed a life governed by the laws of the Church:

“Finally, being old, he lay sick for many months. When he found himself near death, he made every effort to acquaint himself with the doctrine of Catholic ritual… He died on May 2, having received the sacraments of the Church”

It seems odd that this version of Leonardo’s death was not recorded in the first edition of “The Lives“. It is almost as if Vasari felt the need after a while to make Leonardo seem Roman Catholic. Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church pressured Vasari to add this detail.

So, the perennial question is: “Did Leonardo da Vinci believe in God?

Answer: “May be, yes.”

Leonardo wrote about God as if God exists. Here are some excerpts from the Leonardo’s writings:

“Good Report soars and rises to heaven, for virtuous things find favor with God. Evil Report should be shown inverted, for all her works are contrary to God and tend toward hell.”

“O you who look on this our machine, do not be sad that with others you are fated to die, but rejoice that our Creator has endowed us with such an excellent instrument as the intellect.”

“We may justly call… paintingthe grandchild of nature and related to God.”

“We, by our arts may be called the grandsons of God.”

“Fame alone raises herself to Heaven, because virtuous things are in favour with God.”

“If the Lord—who is the light of all things—vouchsafe to enlighten me, I will treat of Light; wherefore I will divide the present work into three Parts: Linear Perspective, The Perspective of Colour, The Perspective of Disappearance.”

“Thou, O God, dost sell unto us all good things at the price of labour.”

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Leonardo da Vinci: Part 5 – His Final Years


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The red-chalk drawing in Turin, claimed to be a self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci (1510-1515). In April 2009, the American art historian, Louis A. Waldman, specializing in the Italian Renaissance made pathetic headlines when he publicly presented documentary evidence revealing that some time before July 1505 Leonardo da Vinci painted a portrait of his beloved uncle, Francesco da Vinci. Waldman argued that this red-chalk drawing — one of the most famous drawings in the history of art due to its frequent misidentification as a self-portrait — is likely to be a preparatory study for the lost painting of Leonardo's uncle.
The red-chalk drawing in Turin, claimed to be a self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci (1510-1515). In April 2009, the American art historian, Louis A. Waldman, specializing in the Italian Renaissance made pathetic headlines when he publicly presented documentary evidence revealing that some time before July 1505 Leonardo da Vinci painted a portrait of his beloved uncle, Francesco da Vinci. Waldman argued that this red-chalk drawing — one of the most famous drawings in the history of art due to its frequent misidentification as a self-portrait — is likely to be a preparatory study for the lost painting of Leonardo’s uncle.

Due to the political instability in Milan, Leonardo left for Rome accompanied by Melzi and Salai on September 24, 1513.

Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici, was an Italian nobleman, the third son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. One of his elder brothers Giovanni de‘ Medici was now Pope Leo X. Appointed Gonfaloniere of the Holy Church, Giuliano had heard much of Leonardo. Meeting Leonardo for the first time, Giuliano welcomed him with open arms like two friends meeting after years of separation. He gave Leonardo lodgings in Fort Belvedere, with a studio and several rooms for his companions.

An anonymous copy of the lost portrait of Giuliano de' Medici by Raphael.
An anonymous copy of the lost portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici by Raphael.

Giuliano and Leonardo became close friends. They discovered in each other the same interests – love of mathematics, mechanics, and nature, and they shared similar thoughts and feelings. Guiliano’s protection gave security to Leonardo and new impetus to carry on with his interests.

Like his father, Giuliano too was a friend and protector of many artists in Florence and Rome. He immediately commissioned two paintings, a Leda and a portrait of a Florentine woman.

In the Vatican Leonardo enjoyed a period of tranquility with a decent salary and no major obligations. He drew maps, studied ancient Roman monuments, started a project for a large residence for the Medici in Florence. He conducted experiments in human flight. From big models Leonardo went on to create tiny ones. He experimented with gliding flights and the curvature of the wings by modelling miniature birds in thin wax.

In Rome, Leonardo found an old acquaintance, Donato Bramante, the Italian architect, who introduced Renaissance architecture to Milan and the High Renaissance style to Rome. He also found the Pope’s favourite, Raphael, the Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance holding court like a prince.

There was no formal scientific research in the Middle Ages. Unable to suppress the writings of the ancient Greeks, the Roman Catholic Church allowed the teaching of ancient Greek science as long as it did not conflict with the Holy Bible and its own teachings. The scholars had to accept the observations of nature passed down from Aristotle and other ancient Greeks. The Church would not permit free inquiry. It imprisoned, tortured, and executed truth-seekers. Leonardo was a truth-seeker, and this fact would not endear him to the Roman Catholic Church.  In fact, Pope Leo X prohibited Leonardo from performing dissections and autopsies. Thus, ended Leonardo’s study of the human body.

Giuliano de‘ Medici died prematurely on March 17, 1516 (aged 37), and Leonardo felt that he had no friends in Rome to protect him, not even the Pope.

King Francis I of France by Jean Clouet.
King Francis I of France by Jean Clouet.

King Francis I of France, a patron of the arts, had earlier invited Leonardo to Amboise. So, Leonardo left Italy to spend the last three years of his life in France accompanied by Melzi and Salai. King Francis provided him the Château du Clos Lucé, then called Château de Cloux, as a place to stay and work.

The king treated Leonardo as a member of the nobility and not as an employee of the royal house. He arranged an annuity of 700 gold scudi to be paid to the elderly artist, to relieve him of any shadow of worry about money. In exchange the young King asked only friendship. The King often went to Cloux to visit Leonardo or sent a carriage to bring the aged artist to his castle.

In the autumn of 1516, Leonardo was not yet 65, but looked much older like an ancient prophet. From 1517, onwards Leonardo’s health started deteriorating. Even when his right arm was paralyzed,  he still worked with his left hand. He made ​​sketches for urban projects, drainage of rivers and even decorated for the holiday palace. He even conceived the idea of prefabricated houses.

The French greeted Melzi as an “Italian gentleman living with master Leonardo,” but accepted the 36-years-old Salaì, only as a “servant”. A dejected Salaì parted from Leonardo and left France in 1518. In reality, he understood that the young Melzi had taken his place in the heart of the Maestro.

The Death of Leonardo da Vinci by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1818.
The Death of Leonardo da Vinci by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1818.

Melzi remained in France with his master until Leonardo’s death at the Château du Clos Lucé on May 2, 1519.  According to a legend, King Francis I was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo’s head in his arms

Upon Leonardo’s death, Melzi inherited the artistic and scientific works, manuscripts, and collections of Leonardo. Melzi then wrote a letter to inform Leonardo’s brothers. In this letter he described Leonardo’s love for him. He described his master’s feeling towards him as “sviscerato e ardentissimo amore” meaning “passionate and ardent love”.

Returning to Italy, Melzi played the role of a guardian of Leonardo’s notebooks. He prepared Leonardo’s writings for publication in the manner directed by his erstwhile master.

Melzi married, and fathered a son, Orazio. When Orazio died on his estate in Vaprio d’Adda, his heirs sold the collection of Leonardo’s works.

It is commonly believed that Leonardo bequeathed to Salaì several paintings including the Mona Lisa. Salaì owned Mona Lisa until his death in 1525. In his will the Mona Lisa was assessed at 505 lire, an exceptionally high valuation for a small panel portrait at that time. Through his estate, many works, including the Mona Lisa, passed into the possession of Francis I of France.

Salaì returned to Milan to work on Leonardo’s vineyard, where his father worked before, and which his erstwhile master had passed on to him through his will.

On June 14, 1523, at the age of 43, Salaì married Bianca Coldiroli d’Annono.

Salaì died in 1524 as a result of a wound received from a crossbow in a duel. He was buried in Milan on March 10, 1524.

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Next → Leonardo da Vinci: Part 6 – Did He Believe in God?

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Leonardo da Vinci: Part 4 – His Two Favourite Pupils


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Leonardo da Vinci - Hidden in the Codex (Source: Alessandro Vezzosi / Museo Ideale Vinci)
Leonardo da Vinci – Hidden in the Codex. The Italian science journalist Piero Angela recently claimed to have spotted what could be a self-portrait by Leonardo underneath lines of ink handwriting in da Vinci’s own “Codex on the Flight of Birds.” Initially only a nose was visible. Digital techniques made it possible to resurrect the original sketch, and a drawing of a young man with long hair and a slight beard appeared. The research team used criminal investigation techniques to “age” the sketched portrait. The result was an impressive resemblance to the most authenticated da Vinci self-portrait, the red chalk drawing from Turin’s Biblioteca Reale. (Source: Alessandro Vezzosi / Museo Ideale Vinci)

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Among all his pupils Leonardo da Vinci had a long-lasting relationship with Gian Giacomo and Francesco Melzi apprenticed to him as children.

Salaì – “The Devil”

On July 22, 1490, Leonardo was in Oreno looking for the perfect horse for the equestrian monument in honor of Francesco Sforza. There he met the 10-year-old Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno, born in 1480, by chance. The 38-year-old Tuscan genius charmed by the beauty of the boy adopted him. The boy was born in 1480 to Pietro di Giovanni, a tenant of Leonardo’s vineyard near the Porta Vercellina, Milan.

Leonardo nicknamed the boy as Salaì or il Salaìno meaning “The Devil” (lit. “The little unclean one”). Salaì lived up to his nickname. On at least five occasions, Giacomo had run off with Leonardo’s money and valuables. He spent a fortune on apparel, including 24 pairs of footwear. Leonardo had made a list of his recalcitrant ways calling him “a thief, a liar, stubborn, and a glutton”.

Despite Salaì ‘s thievery and dereliction, he remained Leonardo’s servant, and assistant for more than 28 years. Some writers believe that Leonard had a taste for “rough trade” and his relationship with Salaì, his “kept boy”, was anything but typical of a father and a son. Vasari describes Salaì as “a graceful and beautiful youth with curly hair, in which Leonardo greatly delighted.”

In 1563, Gian Paolo Lamazzo in his Libro dei Sogni, included a fictional dialogue between a questioner and Leonardo on “l’amore masculino“.

The questioner asks Leonardo of his relations with Salaì: “Did you play the game from behind which the Florentines love so much?”

Leonardo replies: “And how many times! Keep in mind that he was a beautiful young man, especially at about fifteen.”

John the Baptist. Salai is thought to have been the model. (c. 1514) — Louvre.
John the Baptist. Salaì is thought to have been the model. (c. 1514) — Louvre.

Some researchers presume that Salaì was the model for Leonardo’s “St. John the Baptist,“an oil painting on walnut wood. Some consider it to be Leonardo’s final painting between 1513 to 1516.

The piece depicts St. John the Baptist in solitude. St. John dressed in pelts has long curly hair. He smiles in an enigmatic manner, reminiscent of Leonardo’s famous Mona Lisa. He holds a reed cross in his left hand. His right hand points up toward the heaven suggesting the importance of salvation through baptism represented by John the Baptist. Another painter might have added the cross and wool skins at a later date.

Monna Vanna by Andrea Salaì - a nude version of the Mona Lisa.
Monna Vanna by Andrea Salaì – a nude version of the Mona Lisa.

Salaì trained as an artist under Leonardo. He became a capable, but not an impressive painter. He created several paintings under the name of Andrea Salaì. His work includes the Monna Vanna, a nude version of the Mona Lisa which might have been based on a lost nude by Leonardo.

Angel Incarnate - a charcoal drawing by Leonardo da Vinci (c. 1515)
Angel Incarnate – a charcoal drawing by Leonardo da Vinci (c. 1515)

Some drawings among the works of Leonardo and his pupils make reference to Salaì’s sexuality. There is a lewd drawing modelled on Leonardo’s painting “St. John the Baptist,” called “The Angel Incarnate.” It depicts a young nude man with an erect phallus. The figure appears to be in the likeness of Salaì. The face of the figure is closer to Salaì’s copy of Leonardo’s painting than to the original John the Baptist in the Louvre. Salaì himself may have drawn them.

Included in a folio of Leonardo, is a page of drawings by a hand other than Leonardo’s. One of them is a crude sketch depicting an anus and identified as “Salaì’s bum,” pursued by a horde of penises on two legs. The page on which this sketch appears is the same page that contains the depiction of a bicycle. None of the drawings on this page is by Leonardo. The page was not seen until a restoration of the volume in the 1960s. Several pages went missing and were later returned. Some suggest that the drawings are by a pupil of Leonardo, perhaps by Salaì.

We might have had more examples of pornographic drawings by Leonardo and his pupils if a 16th century priest had not destroyed the bulk of those erotic sketches.

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 Count Francesco Melzi

Francesco Melzi, by Boltraffio, c. 1510
Francesco Melzi, by Boltraffio, c. 1510

In 1506, during his second stay in Milan, Leonardo took into his household the 15-year-old Count Francesco Melzi as a pupil. Unlike Salaì, Melzi hailed from a Milanese noble family. Vasari says that Melzi “at the time of Leonardo was a very beautiful and very much loved young man.

As an adult, Melzi became secretary and main assistant of Leonardo.

Vertumnus and Pomona (1518–1522) by Francesco Melzi (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)
Vertumnus and Pomona (1518–1522) by Francesco Melzi (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)

As a painter, Melzi worked closely with and for Leonardo. Some paintings attributed to Leonardo during the nineteenth century are today ascribed to Melzi.

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Next → Leonardo da Vinci: Part 5 – His Final Years

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Leonardo da Vinci: Part 3 – His Pupils


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Leonardo da Vinci - Self portrait
Leonardo da Vinci – Self portrait

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In 1482, Leonardo  da Vinci sent the following letter to Ludovico Maria Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo. He claimed that he could create all sorts of machines both for the protection of a city and for siege:

“Most Illustrious Lord: Having now sufficiently seen and considered the proofs of all those who count themselves masters and inventors in the instruments of war, and finding that their invention and use does not differ in any respect from those in common practice, I am emboldened… to put myself in communication with your Excellency, in order to acquaint you with my secrets. I can construct bridges which are very light and strong and very portable with which to pursue and defeat an enemy… I can also make a kind of cannon, which is light and easy of transport, with which to hurl small stones like hail… I can noiselessly construct to any prescribed point subterranean passages — either straight or winding — passing if necessary under trenches or a river… I can make armored wagons carrying artillery, which can break through the most serried ranks of the enemy. In time of peace, I believe I can give you as complete satisfaction as anyone else in the construction of buildings, both public and private, and in conducting water from one place to another. I can execute sculpture in bronze, marble or clay. Also, in painting, I can do as much as anyone, whoever he may be. If any of the aforesaid things should seem impossible or impractical to anyone, I offer myself as ready to make a trial of them in your park or in whatever place shall please your Excellency, to whom I commend myself with all possible humility.”

Leonardo’s letter earned him a commission from Ludovico Sforza to design an equestrian statue as part of a monument to his father Francesco I Sforza who died in 1466. It was an immense undertaking, intended to be the largest equestrian statue in the world.

Leonardo travelled to Milan and stayed with the de Predis brothers – Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis and Evangelista de Predis. Ambrogio was also a painter. Evangelista was a gilder and assisted painters in preparing the colours.

Ludovico Sforza employed Leonardo from 1482 to 1499. As a court artist, he also organized elaborate festivals.

Leonardo da Vinci's study of horses (1490)
Leonardo da Vinci’s study of horses (1490)

In 1482, Leonardo started the seemingly impossible task of creating a rearing horse over three metres high. Such a task had never been undertaken before. He did extensive preparatory work. He made numerous small sketches of horses to help illustrate his notes about the complex procedures for moulding and casting the sculpture.

In 1483, Leonardo da Vinci and Ambrogio de Predis were commissioned to execute the famous Madonna of the Rocks. Two versions of the painting exist—one in the Louvre (1483 – c. 1486), another in the National Gallery, London (1483 – 1508).

On April 25, 1483, Prior Bartolomeo Scorlione and the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception approached Leonardo. They wanted him and the Predis brothers to create the painted panels for the altarpiece in the church of San Francesco Maggiore in Milan. The contract referred to Leonardo as “Master”.

On April 25, 1483, Prior Bartolomeo Scorlione and the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception approached Leonardo. They wanted him and the Predis brothers to create the painted panels for the altarpiece in the church of San Francesco Maggiore in Milan. The contract referred to Leonardo as “Master”.

Because of the scale of works commissioned, at the court of Ludovico Sforza was large Leonardo had assistants and pupils in his studio to assist him. Leonardo’s pupils at that time were Marco d’Oggiono, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Ambrogio de Predis, Bernardino de’ Conti, Francesco Napoletano, and Andrea Solario.

Leonardo’s fresco of the Last Supper was an incredible piece of painting. Even before its completion word spread about it by the visitors to the church. It was completed by 1498. Leonardo’s experimental technique used for this work was a disaster. It left the mural as a sad ruin with peeling paint by 1517. Subsequent deterioration and the repeated restorations obliterated details and individual figures. Even then, the Last Supper still retains some of the authority which made it the most celebrated painting of its time.

Severe plagues in 1484 and 1485 drew Leonardo’s attention to problems of town planning.

By 1493, after many stoppages, Leonardo made a full-sized clay model of a horse for preparing the moulds for casting. Tons of bronze were needed to complete the horse.

Ludovico Maria Sforza, the Duke of Milan.
Ludovico Maria Sforza, the Duke of Milan.

On October 22, 1494, when the throne of Milan fell, Ludovico assumed the ducal title and received the ducal crown from the Milanese nobles.

In 1494, the new king of Naples, Alfonso, allied himself with Pope Alexander VI, posing a threat to Milan. Ludovico decided to fend him off using France, then ruled by the powerful Charles VIII, as his ally. He permitted the French troops to pass through Milan so they might attack Naples. However, Charles’s ambition was not satisfied with Naples, and he subsequently laid claim to Milan itself. Regretting his decision, Ludovico allied with the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I. Unfortunately, his decision backfired and the Italian Wars broke out.

Ludovico made weapons from 80 tons of bronze originally intended for Leonardo da Vinci’s equestrian statue of his father.

In 1495, Ludovico managed to defeat the French at the Battle of Fornovo.

King Louis XII of France had a hereditary claim to Milan. His paternal grandmother Valentina Visconti was the daughter of Giangaleazzo Visconti, the first Duke of Milan. Hence, in 1498, he descended upon Milan. King Louis was successful in driving out Ludovico from Milan. Ludovico managed to escape the French armies and, in 1499, sought help from Maximilian.

When the French took Milan in 1499, the French archers used Leonardo’s clay horse for target practice. After the fall of Ludovico Sforza, Leonardo left Milan. He returned to Florence in 1500, after brief sojourns in Mantua and Venice.

In February 1500, Ludovico returned with an army of Swiss mercenaries and re-entered Milan. Two months later, Louis XII laid siege to the city of Novara, where Ludovico was based. The French army also had Swiss mercenaries. In April 1500, the Swiss mercenaries hired by Ludovico chose to leave Novara as they did not want to fight their compatriots. They handed Ludovico over to the French. Deprived of all the amenities of life, Ludovico spent his last years in the underground dungeon at Loches, where he died on May 17, 1508.

In 1508, Leonardo returned to Milan and stayed there for the second time. During this time he had relationships with other Milanese artists along with his original pupils. Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (Il Sodoma), Giovanni Francesco Rustici, Giampietrino, Cesare da Sesto and young Francesco Melzi were his pupils. Such artists as Bernardino Lanino, Cesare Magni, Martino Piazza da Lodi and Bernardino Luini are also regarded as members of the circle of Leonardo.

Nativity by various followers of Leonardo da Vinci - Salai, Cesare da Sesto, Fernando Yanez de la Almedina and Anonymous. (Source: Gytismenomyletojas - Wikimedia)
Nativity by various followers of Leonardo da Vinci – Salai, Cesare da Sesto, Fernando Yanez de la Almedina and Anonymous. (Source: Gytismenomyletojas – Wikimedia)

Many writers have emphasized that Leonardo took only handsome boys and youths as his pupils. He was kind and considerate towards them. He cared for them and nursed them himself when they were ill.

As he selected his pupils on account of their beauty rather than their talent, none of them — Cesare da Sesto, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Andrea Salaino (Salaì), Francesco Melzi and the others — ever became a prominent artist. Most of them could not make themselves independent of their master. They disappeared after Leonardo’s death without leaving any significant painting to the world of art.

Other painters such as Bernardino Luini and Giovanni Bazzi (Il Sodoma), who by their creations earned the right to call themselves his pupils, were probably not known to Leonardo “personally”.

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Leonardo da Vinci: Part 2 – His Sexuality


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was well-loved by his contemporaries. Early biographers described him as a man with great personal appeal, kindness, and generosity. Vasari wrote:

“Leonardo’s disposition was so lovable that he commanded everyone’s affection. He was a sparkling conversationalist… In appearance he was striking and handsome, and his magnificent presence brought comfort to the most troubled soul; he was so persuasive that he could bend other people to his will. He was physically so strong that he could withstand violence and with his right hand, he could bend the ring of an iron door knocker or a horseshoe as if they were lead. He was so generous that he fed all his friends, rich or poor… Through his birth, Florence received a very great gift, and through his death, it sustained an incalculable loss.”

Leonardo’s sexuality

Speculation about Leonardo’s sexuality began during his lifetime and has continued since then.

Leonardo tried his best to keep his private life secret. Some of his writings are in code. He left hundreds of pages of writing, but little of it is personal. One of the few references Leonardo made to sexuality in his notebooks states:

“The act of procreation and anything that has any relation to it is so disgusting that human beings would soon die out if there were no pretty faces and sensuous dispositions.”

Researchers have extrapolated and interpreted the above statement  to ascertain his sexual inclination. Other than this statement, none of his writings indicate that he had any romantic interest or any intimate sexual relationship with any person – female or male. It is true that he surrounded himself with handsome young men throughout his life. Yet, Giorgio Vasari, the 16th-century biographer of Renaissance painters, has not made any reference to Leonardo’s sexuality whatsoever.

Like other contemporary Florentine painters, Leonardo often used graceful young men to pose for his paintings. His art reflects an admiration for beauty in males. Some art critics have noted homoerotic elements in his portrait of St. John the Baptist.

The last supper by Leonardo da Vinci
The last supper by Leonardo da Vinci

There is a controversy with Leonardo’s Last Supper: “Is the male apostle seated on the right of Jesus an effeminate youth, or a woman?”

Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (1503–1505 or 1507)—Louvre, Paris, France.
Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (1503–1505 or 1507)—Louvre, Paris, France.

In April 1995, the Scientific American reported that a computer analysis established that the mysterious woman portrayed in Mona Lisa might in fact be a self-portrait of Leonardo himself.

In the 20th century, some biographers made explicit reference to a probability that Leonardo was homosexual. A few others asserted that Leonardo was celibate for much of his life.

The only available historical document on the sexual life of Leonardo is an accusation of sodomy made against him in 1476. At that time he was an apprentice in the workshop of Verrocchio.

In the 15th century, Florence was famous not only for art, but also for its active community of gay men. Homosexuality was widespread and tolerated. In fact, the word Florenzer (Florentine) was a slang for a homosexual in Germany. Sodomy was then a serious offence, carrying the death penalty, but difficult to prove. So, the punishment for the offence was seldom imposed. The usual penalty for the first offence was a small fine.

At that time, it was a common practice to denounce a person in an anonymous letter. In 1432, the Podesta (chief magistrate) set up the Office of the Night to eradicate “the abominable sin of homosexuality.” The Office of the Night installed wooden boxes called tamburos in the courtyards of the Palazzo della Signoria, the town hall of Florence. Accusations of misdeeds and crimes such as theft, the practice of magic, exploitation and stealing, etc., ended up in the tamburos along with vilifications due to jealousy, resentment and revenge put in them. The officials then sorted them out. During its 70 years of persecution, the Office of the Night officially charged over 15,000 men for sodomy.

Jacopo d’Andrea Saltarelli, born 1459, was an apprentice goldsmith and a male prostitute. He is sometimes described in modern literature as an artist’s model. According to the court records there were several charges of male prostitution against him.

In April 1476, an unknown person placed a letter in a tamburo at Palazzo della Signoria, accusing 17-year-old Saltarelli of male prostitution. Of the four men listed, as patronizing him, one was Leonardo di Ser Piero da Vinci.

On April 9, 1476, Leonardo, along with four other defendants, appeared before the officials of the Office of the Night. The accuser’s letter reads:

“I hereby inform Your Official Lords that it is a true thing that Jacopo Saltarelli, blood brother of Giovanni Saltarelli… pursues many miseries and keeps company with persons who share in such evil practices… I will hereby list some of them: Bartolomeo di Pasquino, goldsmith, lives at Vacchereccia, Leonardo di Ser Piero da Vinci, stays with Andrea del Verrocchio, Bacino the doublet-maker, lives at Ono San Michele… Leonardo Tornabuoni, known as Teri, dresses in black.”

After the hearing, the court dismissed the charges against them cum conditione ut retamburentur, that is, subject to being re-examined.

Then on June 7, 1476, Leonardo was once again the arrested and jailed for the same accusation. His father refused his pleas for help. The  charges were again dismissed because the accusations did not meet the legal requirement for prosecution. Such accusations could be made secretly, but not anonymously. All accusations of sodomy had to be signed, but in this case it was not. Also, the family of Leonardo Tornabuoni, associated with Lorenzo de‘ Medici, exerted its influence to secure the dismissal. After serving two months in prison, the authorities released Leonardo.

Though declared not guilty, Leonardo felt no gladness, only desolation. From that date until 1478 there is no record of his work or even of his whereabouts. In 1478, Leonardo left Verrocchio’s studio. He left behind him the companionship of his fellow apprentices. He Wanted to get away from certain persons and from the city.

Leonardo went to Vinci, where his father had bought a farm some years before. Leonardo’s curiosity about natural life became a need to observe the phenomena of nature. He started studying nature which he declared was essential for a good painter. He resumed his study of landscapes. He analysed the objects of his study in detail, breaking down reality into the tiniest details.

Study of horses (1490) by Leonardo da Vinci
Study of horses (1490) by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo’s curiosity about natural life became a need to observe the phenomena of nature. He started studying nature which he declared was essential for a good painter. He resumed his study of landscapes. He made detailed analysis, breaking down reality into the tiniest details.

Two months later, after the sentence of not guilty became definitive, Leonardo wrote:

When I made God a cherub, you put me in prison. Now, if I make him a grown man, you will do me even worse“.

It is a significant testimony to Leonardo’s resentment at being misunderstood.

Leonardo never married.

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Next → Leonardo da Vinci: Part 3 – His Pupils

← Previous – Leonardo da Vinci: Part 1 – The Archetype Renaissance Man

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Leonardo da Vinci: Part 1 – The Archetype Renaissance Man


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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A B&W copy of Leonardo da Vinci attributed to the Italian painter Giovanni Cariani (c. 1490-1547) (National Gallery of Art, Washington).
A B&W copy of Leonardo da Vinci attributed to the Italian painter Giovanni Cariani (c. 1490-1547) (National Gallery of Art, Washington).  According to author Maike Vogt-Luerssen, this painting is a self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci and the National Gallery of Art has wrongly attributed it to the Italian painter Cariani who was not even born when the maestro created it.

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Leonardo da Vinci, is one of the greatest painters of all time. He is perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. Leonardo was a polymath, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. His genius, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. Leonardo was the archetype of the Renaissance Man.

Title page of the 1568 edition of the Vite (Source: Wikipedia)
Title page of the 1568 edition of the Vite (Source: Wikipedia)

In 1550, the 16th-century Italian painter and architect Giorgio Vasari published “Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori da Cimabue insino a’ tempi nostri” (“The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times”). The title is often abridged to the Vite or the Lives. This work is considered perhaps the most famous, and even today the most-read work of the older literature of art. It was the first important book on the history of art.

In his work, Vasari, described Leonardo as having qualities that “transcended nature” and being “marvellously endowed with beauty, grace and talent in abundance”.

Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci. It is a Tuscan hill town in the lower valley of the Arno River in the territory of the Medici-ruled Republic of Florence. He was born out-of-wedlock to the wealthy Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a Florentine legal notary. His mother Caterina was a peasant. Though she nursed him as a baby, he never knew her because she soon got married to a craftsman in the region. Leonardo’s full birth name was “Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci“, meaning “Leonardo, (son) of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci”. The inclusion of the title “ser” indicates that Leonardo’s father was a gentleman.

Leonardo's childhood home in Anchiano (Source: Lucarelli/Wikimedia)
Leonardo’s childhood home in Anchiano (Source: Lucarelli/Wikimedia)

Not much is known about Leonardo’s early life. He spent his first five years in the hamlet of Anchiano in the home of his mother. Then, from 1457, he lived in the household of his father, in the small town of Vinci. He received an informal education in Latin, geometry and mathematics. His lack of formal education, encouraged him to develop the faculties that made him great.

According to Vasari, a local peasant requested young Leonardo to paint his round shield. Leonardo painted a terrifying monster spitting fire. It looked too good and Leonardo sold it to a Florentine art dealer, who in turn sold it to the Duke of Milan. Having made a profit, Leonardo bought a shield decorated with a heart pierced by an arrow and gave it to the peasant.

Leonardo began his artistic life, in 1466, at the age of fourteen. His father, Ser Piero, noticed his son’s extraordinary artistic talents. He showed some of Leonardo’s drawings to his friend, sculptor-painter Andrea di Cione, known as Verrocchio, whose workshop was “one of the finest in Florence”. Verrocchio accepted Leonardo for apprenticeship. Other famous painters apprenticed or associated with the workshop include Domenico Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Botticelli, and Lorenzo di Credi.  They were all a bit older than Leonardo.

The artists during the Renaissance period occupied quite a humble status in the social hierarchy. They were just artisans like any other craftsmen such as tailors or saddle makers.  Verrocchio’s employees did most of the work on the paintings in his workshop. The master would paint the main figures in a picture and the apprentices would draw the secondary figures and fill in the details.

The Baptism of Christ (1472–1475) by Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci (Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy).
The Baptism of Christ (1472–1475) by Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci (Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy).

According to Vasari, Leonardo collaborated with Verrocchio on his The Baptism of Christ. Botticelli painted the angel with clasped hands. Leonardo painted the other angel holding Jesus’ robe in a manner that was far superior. When Verrocchio saw the figure of the angel that Leonardo had painted he put down his brush and never painted again.

Tempera, also known as egg tempera, is a permanent, fast-drying paint medium. It consisted of colour pigments mixed with a water-soluble glutinous binder medium, such as egg yolk or some other size. Egg tempera was the primary method of painting until that time. Afterwards, the invention of oil paint superseded it.

On close examination, the painting reveals the new technique of oil paint has been used to paint or touch-up over the tempera. The landscape, the rocks that can be seen through the brown mountain stream, and much of the figure of Jesus bear witness to the hand of Leonardo.

Leonardo da Vinci as the model for David in Andrea del Verrocchio's "'David and Goliath"
Leonardo da Vinci as the model for David in Andrea del Verrocchio’s “David and Goliath”

The Medici family commissioned Verrocchio to create the statue of “David and Goliath”. According to a popular legend the model for the statue was Leonardo da Vinci, a young artist from Verrocchio’s studio. The placement of Goliath’s head has been the subject of debate. Some historians say that the head should be placed between David’s feet while others claim that it belongs to the right. However, the statue has been exhibited using both placements.

In the 15th century, Italy was a violent place to live in. It was a turbulent age of wars and revolutions with tremendous upheavals in society. Florence was a bustling city of 40,000 inhabitants. It had a boisterous populace where rival merchant dynasties fought each other for power. During his lifetime, Leonardo was valued as an engineer.

A design for a flying machine (an Ornithopter) by Leonardo da Vinci, (c. 1488) Institut de France, Paris
A design for a flying machine (an Ornithopter) by Leonardo da Vinci, (c. 1488) Institut de France, Paris

According to many Renaissance authors Leonardo “may be the most universally recognized left-handed artist of all time”. This fact manifests in most of his drawing and his written works. Some say that he wrote in mirror image in his notebooks because he was left-handed. Some writers have accused him of trying to protect his works, which claim seems to be false. Early Italian art connoisseurs were divided in their opinion as to whether Leonardo also drew with his right hand. More recently, most Anglo-American art historians have discounted the suggestions that Leonardo was ambidextrous.

Giorgio Vasari, in the enlarged edition of “The Lives” (1568), introduced his chapter on Leonardo da Vinci with the following words:

“In the normal course of events many men and women are born with remarkable talents; but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is marvellously endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill. Everyone acknowledged that this was true of Leonardo da Vinci, an artist of outstanding physical beauty, who displayed infinite grace in everything that he did and who cultivated his genius so brilliantly that all problems he studied he solved with ease.”

Next → Leonardo da Vinci: Part 2 – His Sexuality

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Wooden Cars


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj
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Morgan Aero 8 (Source: Brian Snelson/flickr)

Morgan Aero 8 (Source: Brian Snelson/flickr)

I came across the following on BBC TopGear’s front page:

Morgan

Morgan

An antidote for anyone who despairs at the loss of innocence. How sweet it is to think that there’s a shed in the Malvern hills in which a dedicated bunch of artisans is hard at work hand-building sports cars with wooden chassis. What’s more, with the Aero 8 and forthcoming hybrid LifeCar, it looks like they’re here to stay.

This aroused my curiosity about wooden cars.

The Morgan Motor Company, is a family owned British motor car manufacturing firm founded in 1909 by Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan that specializes in hand-assembled cars. The company, based in the Malvern hills, an area of Malvern, Worcestershire, England to the north and east of Great Malvern employs around 163 people. In 2007, Morgan produced 640 hand-assembled cars.

In their FAQs page to the question “Is it still made with a Wooden chassis?” they answer:

“The Morgan car has always been built around an ash-frame , and a steel chassis. The new Aero 8 also has an ash frame. This gives unique strength, flexibility and surprisingly, research showed that the frame made the car safer on impact tests.”

A year ago, in May 2013, I came across a news item in the media about Istvan Puskas, a 51-year-old Hungarian farmer. He lives in Tiszaörs, a village in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county, in the Northern Great Plain region of central Hungary.

Istvan Puskas
Istvan Puskas

Farmer Istvan Puskas, is also skilled in woodcraft. He loves to create unique articles with wood that would interest people.

A year earlier, in 2012, he created a unique motorcycle entirely of wood. a one-of-a-kind chopper made almost exclusively out of wood.

In 2013, Puskas created a unique wooden vehicle powered by a Polish-made Fiat 126 engine. The vehicle resembles a tractor.

Though a steering wheel salvaged from an old Mercedes-Benz came in handy, he made the frame, wheels, axles, suspension and gearbox out of wood. He used an old beer barrel for the fuel tank. His object was to use as much wood as possible.

It took him four months to finish building his vehicle.

Even though the current Hungarian laws make it impossible for Istvan Puskas to officially register and drive his unique wooden vehicle on the road, the local policemen impressed with his efforts allow him to drive it on the local lanes in his village. So far, touch wood, he has not run into any accidents.

Since Istvan had no garage to park his wooden vehicle, he had plans to put his creation on the market, as a collector’s item, or as a vehicle for someone who prefers to drive slow. He said that he intends to use the proceeds to fund his next project – a three-wheeled vehicle.

Recently, I came across the following video on YouTube of an amazing, beautiful custom-built 2009 wooden car Uploaded on October 13, 2010 by mrantisocialguy.

This custom hand-built wooden car mounted on a 1986 Toyota truck frame is powered by a Chrysler 318 engine. Driven by an automatic transmission it had 1,800 miles registered on its speedometer at the time of shooting this video.

The following video titled “wooden car Amazing Invention – HD” uploaded by Mohammed Rashed Ul Haq on Jan 13, 2011 is a four-minute long documentary on the manufacture of a wooden car.

Today, I read an article in the Deccan Chronicle, Chennai edition, titled “Wooden car awaits licence“.

Appar Lakshmanan, a hereditary master wood craftsman belonging to the Viswakarma community, has built a wooden car, which is probably the first eco-friendly vehicle made in the state of Tamilnadu, India.

Like Istvan Puskas in Hungary, Appar Lakshmanan too finds it difficult to meet the high criteria set by the Regional Transport Officer (RTO), Chennai.

Appar Lakshmanan drives the car he made almost entirely with wood (Source: DC)
Appar Lakshmanan drives the car he made almost entirely with wood (Source: DC)

The writer of the article J.V. Siva Prasanna Kumar quotes Appar Lakshmanan as saying:

“If its strength of materials and ability to withstand combustion in the event of an accident or collision, then test my car and see the results… The officials seem to raise several questions, including how the wooden frames were fixed together. My father used bamboo pegs as rivets and they stood the test of time. Would anyone believe that?”

Appar Lakshmanan says the wood he used to make the car was not inflammable. Nevertheless, his efforts to convince the RTO authorities and obtain a licence did not yield the desired results. The one among his woes is that he could not get an engine or chassis number for his wooden car. A real paradox indeed!

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The Refracted-Light Lamp of Alfredo Moser Brightens Millions of Homes


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 Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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“Alfredo Moser has changed the lives of a tremendous number of people, I think forever. Whether or not he gets the Nobel Prize, we want him to know that there are a great number of people who admire what he is doing.” – Illac Angelo Diaz, MyShelter Foundation, Philippines.

 

Alfredo Moser
Alfredo Moser

The creative mind of Alfredo Moser, a  Brazilian mechanic, came up with a cheap way to illuminate his house during the day without using electricity. His “Lamp Moser” is just a plastic bottle filled with water and a little amount of bleach, added to prevent the growth of algae.

Alfredo Moser lives in Uberaba, a city in the west of the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. In 2002, there were frequent power outages in his home city. While talking to the media Moser said: “The only places that had energy were the factories, not people’s houses.”

During the power outages, Moser and his friends were discussing a hypothetical situation of a small plane coming down and the survivors had no matches to light a fire to signal the rescuers. Moser’s boss suggested filling a discarded plastic bottle with water and using it as a lens to focus the sun’s rays on dry grass to start a fire.

This simple idea germinated in Moser’s mind and motivated him to develop the “Lamp Moser” – a cheap source of indoor lighting during the day. The lamp has an intensity around 60 watts.

Moser installed the bottle lamps in his house and in the houses of his neighbours and also in the local supermarket.

Though he does earn a few dollars installing his creation, it has not made him wealthy, but has given him a great sense of pride. He still lives in his simple house and drives his old 1974 car.

In the Philippines, where electricity is relatively expensive, a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. Alfred Moser’s idea of the refracted-light bottle lamps have been installed in more than 200,000 homes and benefitted more than a million people.

Illac Angelo Diaz
Illac Angelo Diaz

Illac Angelo Diaz is the executive director of the MyShelter Foundation in the Philippines that specializes in the use of sustainable or recycled materials such as bamboo, tyre, paper, and discarded plastic bottles as alternative construction materials. They built walls with plastic bottles filled with mud and windows with bottles filled with water.

Diaz came to know about Alfredo Moser and admired the simple principle embodied in the refracted light lamps that provide indoor lighting during the daytime.

In June 2011, MyShelter started making the refracted-light bottle lamps, following the Moser method. Diaz says that one can find Moser lamps, even on remote island communities in the Philippines. He adds that the light provided by the refracted-light bottle lamps help people in poor areas to grow food on small hydroponic farms.

The Foundation now trains people to fabricate and install the refracted-light bottle lamps to earn a small income.

The idea has also caught on in about 15 other countries, from India and Bangladesh, to Tanzania, Argentina and Fiji.

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Nikola Tesla, the Obscure Genius


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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“When I saw this wonderful man [Thomas Alva Edison], who had had no training at all, no advantages, and who did it all himself, and saw the great results by virtue of his industry and application – you see, I had studied a dozen languages … and had spent the best years of my life ruminating through libraries. I thought to myself what a terrible thing it was to have wasted my life on those useless things, and if I had only come to America right then and there and devoted all of my brain power and inventiveness to my work, what could I not have done?” (Nikola Tesla, in My inventions: My early life. Electrical Experimenter; February 1919)

Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American, was born in what is now Croatia on July 10, 1856. He was a physicist, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, an inventor, and futurist. He is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.

During his lifetime, Tesla obtained about 300 patents for his inventions. Today, we take many of his inventions for granted today. For example, we owe Tesla for the flip switch when we turn on the light.

Tesla was one of the few inventors who contributed to advances in science and engineering in the early 20th century. As one of the fathers of Electricity, Nikola Tesla did pioneering work on alternating current (AC) power system, electromagnetism, hydroelectric power, radio, radar etc.

Tesla gained experience in telephony and electrical engineering before he immigrated to the United States in 1884.

In 1882, Nikola Tesla started working for two years at the Continental Edison Company in France designing and making improvements to electrical equipment. In June 1884, Tesla relocated to New York City. During his trip across the Atlantic, his ticket, money, and some of his luggage were stolen. Then, mutiny broke out on the ship and he was nearly thrown overboard. When he landed in the United States he had only four cents in his pocket, a letter of recommendation from Charles Batchelor, the English engineer who managed the Continental Edison Company in Europe.

Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Alva Edison

Tesla met Edison. Knowing the famous American inventor had a hearing problem spoke up and introduced himself. He produced the brief message from Batchelor.

Edison snorted after glancing at the brief message. “I know two great men and you are one of them,” Batchelor had written. “The other is this young man!

A rumpled, weary, and deeply skeptical Edison asked Tesla what he could do.

Tesla humbly described the engineering work he had done in France, and spoke of his designs for induction motors that could run smoothly and powerfully on alternating current. Edison, however, knew very little about alternating current and believed it to be the work of the devil. Edison was a man with bigot, who in the past had waged a propaganda war against the gas companies stating the use of gas as a source of power would endanger humans due to possible explosions.

Eventually, Edison hired Tesla to work at the Edison Machine Works in New York.

One year later after a disagreement over emoluments, Tesla struck out on his own. With financial backers, he set up laboratories and companies to develop a range of electrical devices that sparked the long-running, and bitter “War of the Currents.”

Laboratory where TEsla and Westinghouse engineers developed apparatus for AC systems.
Laboratory where Tesla and Westinghouse engineers developed apparatus for AC systems.

George Westinghouse used Tesla’s patented AC induction motor and transformer under license and hired him as a consultant to help develop a power system using alternating current.

Tesla is also known for his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs. His patented devices and theoretical work were used in the invention of radio communication, and in his X-ray experiments.

At that time, James S. Warden, a western lawyer and banker had purchased land in Shoreham, Long Island, about 60 miles from Manhattan. Here, he built a resort community known as Wardenclyffe-On-Sound. Warden believed that with the implementation of Nikola Tesla’s “world system” a “Radio City” would arise in the area. He offered Tesla 200 acres (81 ha) of land close to a railway line on which to build his wireless telecommunications tower and laboratory facility. In 1901, Tesla designed the Wardenclyffe Tower also known as the Tesla Tower, an early wireless transmission tower intended for commercial trans-Atlantic wireless telephony, broadcasting, and proof-of-concept demonstrations of wireless power transmission. It never became fully operational and the tower was demolished in 1917.

Tesla with his achievements and his seemingly miraculous inventions and his abilities as a showman became world-famous. Though he reaped much money from his patents, he also spent a lot on numerous experiments. For most of his life he lived in New York hotels. Finally, the end of his patent income and eventual bankruptcy led him to live in diminished circumstances. Even then, Tesla continued to invite the press to parties he held on his birthday to announce new inventions he was working on. Due to his pronouncements and the nature of his work over the years, Tesla gained a reputation as the archetypal “mad scientist”.

Though Nikola Tesla was one of the world’s greatest inventors, as fate would have it, he died penniless and in obscurity on January 7, 1943 in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel.

Monument for f Nikola Tesla at the entrance to the “Cave of the Winds” at Niagara Falls.
This monument to honour Nikola Tesla near the entrance to the “Cave of the Winds” on Goat Island (Niagara Falls State Park), New York, USA, the work of famous Croatian sculptor Krsinic was the gift of Yugoslavia to the United States, 1976. (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj – August 3, 2012)

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An Indian-American Teenage Girl’s Invention Could Charge Cell-phones in 20 Seconds


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Eesha Khare

An Indian-American Teenage Girl’s Invention Could Charge Cell-phones in 20 Seconds

Thanks to an 18-year-old high-school student, Eesha Khare of Saratoga, California, USA, our wait for hours for a cellphone to charge may become a thing of the past. This Indian-American girl, specialising in nanochemistry, has invented a super-capacitor device that can potentially charge a cellphone in less than 20 seconds.

The Intel Foundation presented Esha Khare the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and $50,000 during the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair held in Phoenix, Arizona this week for inventing the tiny super-capacitor device that can pack lot more energy into a smaller space than traditional phone batteries. The gizmo fits inside mobile phone batteries, and can hold the charge for a longer period.

Eesha says that her invention could be employed not only to charge cellphone batteries, but also to power anything that uses rechargeable batteries. Right now, the “super-capacitor” charges a light-emitting diode (LED). However, she is now being besieged by offers from the electronic industry. Reports say that Google is now having preliminary exploratory talks with Eesha Khare.

Let us wish this teenager all success with her invention.

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