Leonardo

Michael White, Author St. Martin's Press $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-20333-7
It's not easy writing a biography of a legendary figure like Leonardo da Vinci, one whose life has already been well chronicled by numerous others. White (Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science, etc.) takes on this task to demonstrate that, in addition to his artistic mastery and engineering acumen, Leonardo boasted scientific advances and insights that qualify him as the first scientist. Born more than 100 years before Francis Bacon--who for his work in defining the scientific method is generally credited with this designation--Leonardo wrote about experimentation in a surprisingly modern manner. He focused his attention primarily on optics, human anatomy, flight, geography and geology, making significant advances in each field. ""Quite simply, if Leonardo had chosen to concentrate upon only one of the areas of research he tackled and had even then come up with the results he did, he would still be remembered today for his genius and imagination,"" writes White. Sadly, virtually none of Leonardo's scientific work was published during his life and much was lost over the ensuing generations. In his scientific endeavors, as with most of his other areas of interest, Leonardo was a very private person and one who seemed unable to fully finish tasks. Although there's not much new material here, White does an amiable job of presenting Leonardo and his times in a fresh manner. 35 b&w photos. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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