Leonardo da Vinci delved deeply into the aesthetics and functioning of the human body through extensive anatomical drawings and notes. In a new paper titled "Revisiting Leonardo on Muscles: Intimations of Mathematical Biology and Biomechanics,” Michael Kemp takes us on a journey through da Vinci's fascinating anatomical works.
While da Vinci’s aim was to reveal what he believed to be the divine engineering of God, the drawings reveal a deep level of understanding of the mechanics of the human body. Usually ignored in the history of medicine and biology, the author highlights da Vinci’s work as a precursor to the modern science of biomechanics.
A key aspect of da Vinci’s anatomies, Kemp argues, was that his analyses sought mathematical truths. He applied mathematical principles to the physical operations of the body to study its mechanics and functions, for example in his analysis of the heart's valves and his pioneering casting technique for studying the brain’s ventricles. Kemp highlights how da Vinci combined mathematics, aesthetics, and mechanics to understand the human body, using meticulously detailed drawings as an analytical tool to convey meaning and function through shape and form.
Kemp, M. Revisiting Leonardo on Muscles: Intimations of Mathematical Biology and Biomechanics. Biological Theory 18, 7–19 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13752-022-00421-1