Printing Press

Well into the seventeenth century presses remained crude and they had progressed little. At the time Leonardo was born Gutenburg had just invented movable type and Leonardo's press was not a new design; his contribution consisted of suggesting improvements on an existing system. One of Leonardo's modifications was a double thread which would serve to increase the travel of the press for each turn made of the lever. It appears Leonardo intended to publish his information on work done in this area, but it was not until 132 years after his death that this was to happen.


Leonardo was very specific in his 1483 design for a parachute:

"if a man had a tent made of linen, of which all the apertures have been stopped up, and it be twelve braccia [21 feet] across and twelve feet in depth, he will be able to throw himself down from any great height without sustaining any injury."

Unlike modern parachutes, his design was quite rigid and had poles running down from the apex of the canopy. In normal circumstances this type of design would be prone to oscillations, however Leonardo's plan had the man hanging from his arms and it was thought this would reduce the problem.

Over five hundred years after Leonardo drew his sketch, his theories were tested out when Adrian Nicholas of Britain used Leonardo's parachute during a skydive. Three months were spent building the chute, using wood and canvas. Data equipment was attached and the jump made in ideal weather over Mpumalanga in South Africa. Adrian Nichols commented that:

"From my perspective, I just saw this canvas material billowing in the wind like the sails of an ancient sailing boat," Nicholas says. "And I just hung there in space. There was no oscillation, no rotation or gyration or anything. And I flew for ages and ages and ages. You could see people in the fields all around waving and shouting. It was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful."

A traditional parachute was used for the landing as Leonardo's chute, though it gave a lovely ride, could not be steered and depended upon for a safe landing. It did, however, land nearby and gently enough that all the recording equipment remained undamaged.

Unfortunately, Leonardo cannot claim to have influenced the modern-day parachute as his design remained undiscovered until the nineteenth century. Modern parachutes are based on parasols whereas Leonardo's is based upon the tent.