DaVinci Bicycle

Sharon Boyd - Bent Fork Chronicles Editor

Thus the bicycle, in tributes such as the current Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston, is claimed as a product of the ideas of the Renaissance artist, scientist and inventor.

The drawing is thought to have been made by Salai, one of Leonardo's favorite students, perhaps copied from his master's now-lost design.  It was discovered in the 1960s when Leonardo's "Codex Atlanticus" was being restored; it was next to some cartoonish doodles and Salai's name on the back of a page of architectural drawings, near the edge, and had been obscured by a windowpane mat framing back-to-back pages.

Some historians suggest the bicycle sketch is a fake, planted in the notebook in modern times to endow Leonardo with even more foresight than he deserved.

Popular credit for developing the modern bicycle usually goes to father and son Pierre and Ernest Michaux, carriage makers in Paris.  Their 1860s two-wheeled velocipede had cranks and pedals connected to the axle of the front wheel, like children's tricycles of today.  A Michaux employee, Pierre Lallement, said the idea was stolen from his 1862 prototype, and he struck out for America.  In Connecticut, he and a partner got the first U.S. bicycle patent in 1866.  Boston manufacturer Albert A. Pope bought the patent and reaped a fortune making Columbia bicycles. 

Bikes with a chain pulling a toothed gear on the axle of the rear wheel -- more like the drawing linked to Leonardo da Vinci -- came later, from English manufacturer James Starley in 1884.  This innovation was the biggest boost to Pope's business and launched bicycling's American heyday in the 1890s.  Whether Leonardo da Vinci was the true inventor remains as mysterious as the Mona Lisa's smile.

by Lynne Tolman, TELEGRAM & GAZETTE Worcester, Mass. May 11, 1997

The Da Vinci Machines Exhibition in the Denver Pavilions is on loan from the Museum of Leonardo DaVinci in Florence, Italy, contains over 60 hand-crafted inventions built from Leonardo’s 500 year old designs and is the life work of three generations of Florentine artisans, who have painstakingly brought to life the creations by the brilliant scientist, inventor and artist Leonardo DaVinci.With over 60 machines on display, many of which are interactive, the collection features replicas of the major and most striking inventions of the original Renaissance Man.


Photograph courtesy of Sharon Boyd

The Bent Fork Chronicles - Vol 5, Issue 3, 1 August 2012

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