The Life of Leonardo Da Vinci – Infographic Biography

Today is exactly 500 years since Leonardo Da Vinci last lived and died. Maybe it is not widely known, but he was a great infographic artist. He masterfully combined art and science on thousands of pages of his notebooks. If only he published them. But there is a reason he did not. Here we present the man himself as an infographic. And it may explain why.

Create an infographic like this on Adioma

From the new biography Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, I learned about the existence of thousands of illustrated pages of notes that explore everything from how birds fly to how a fetus fits in the womb. These are not just sketches that you would expect from an artist – they are full of scientific facts and original discoveries.

We often think of art and science as two separate worlds. People in general seem to be good at one or the other. Leonardo was the rare exception of a person who did not seem to view art and science as separate. Likewise, in information graphics both scientific fact and aesthetetics are required.

From a personal perspective, it is interesting to see how Leonardo suceeded in pursuing both. As an infographic designer, I often run into the limitations of my knowledge – I could be more systematic if I knew more math, better at perspective drawing if I knew more geometry, better at colors if I knew more about optics.

Leonardo seems to have let himself spend decades on pursuing answers to questions such as how to calculate the area of a circle. His scientific experiments consumed decades of his life. Not even necessary for his art. And, yet maybe they were because Leonardo strove to create paintings that we not just pretty but also scientifically sound. He studied optics to render light and shadow correctly. He dissected cadavers so that he could model human muscles in whatever body position his paintings required. And as his notebooks show, he went into much greater detail than he needed.

Leonardo has made so many discoveries that to some degree he seems superhuman. How did the man find the time? Interestingly, in the many notebooks that survive there is almost no mention of himself and his personal life. The infographic above is my attempt to represent whatever imperfect information we have about his private life from the biographers. I am not sure that Leonardo would be happy to see this, but I think his life story gives us hope that one lifetime is enough for an imperfect human to make a good-faith attempt at perfection.

infographic created on Adioma
face illustration by Daria Baitaliuk