Leonardo da Vinci

15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519

Inventor, Painter, Designer, Musician -"Renaissance Man"

Leonardo da Vinci was an inventor, painter, and sculptor whose broad interests also included architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography.

Art historian Helen Gardner wrote that the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, and “his mind and personality seem to us superhuman”.

One remarkable indication that Leonardo was likely dyslexic is in his handwriting. Leonardo was constantly sketching out his ideas for inventions. Most of the time, he wrote his notes in reverse, mirror image:

Leonardo mirror writing sample

Although unusual, this is a trait sometimes shared by other left-handed dyslexic adults. Most of the time, dyslexic writers are not even consciously aware that they are writing this way; it is simply an easier and more natural way for them to write.

Leonardo’s spelling is also considered erratic and quite strange. He also started many more projects then he ever finished – a characteristic now often associated with attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

However, when it came to his drawing and artwork, Leonardo’s work is detailed and precise.

Leonardo sketch of helicopterLeonardo was intrigued with the concept of human flight, and spent many years toying with various ideas for flying machines. When he drew his flying machine, he wrote (backwards, of course): “A small model can be made of paper with a spring like metal shaft that after having been released, after having been twisted, causes the screw to spin up into the air.”

 

His extraordinary art work and inventive genius are proof that he truly possessed the gift of dyslexia.

Artwork:

  • Mona Lisa
  • The Last Supper
  • Virgin of the Rocks
  • St.John the Baptist
  • The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

Inventive Designs:

  • Leonardo’s Robot (mechanical knight)
  • Helicopter (Aerial Screw)
  • Parachute
  • Ornithopter
  • Mechanical Adding Machine
  • Diving Suit
  • Steam Cannon
  • Machine Gun
  • Armored Tank

9 comments

  • D0S81

    i dont think he was dyslexic. to know why i say this, you have to know what dyslexia *is*. my brother has it, and i still thought, like most people, they just saw letters backwards or something. so wrong. someone with dyslexia basically finds it hard to read because their eyes are sensitive to the background the writing is on, it appears so bright that it blocks out parts of letters or words, my brother actually reads perfectly with colour tinted glasses, thus taking away the glare dyslexia causes from white paper. different dyslexics find different colour backgrounds easier to read. there was a documentary i watched about a british actress with dyslexia, who without colour tinted glasses, could barely read harry potter, as soon as she found a colour that worked for her glasses, in her case blue, she read it word for word, perfectly.

    so if dyslexia is nothing to do with words, and is actually more to do with light and colour, then we’d know if leonardo was dyslexic because wouldnt certain colours in his paintings be darker than they should because of the glare bought on by dyslexia? im just guessing. but im an artist or is a little colour blind, i sometimes mix up browns with reds, basically subtle shade differences, and this affects my art, so im guessing dyslexia would affect his art not just his writing. maybe his writing is through the fact he didnt get formal schooling because of being an illegitimate child? and plus the fact he’s a genius of his time, maybe he thought writing backwards was a good way to hide his notes from potential theives of his stuff.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      I think you have dyslexia confused with something else called “scotopic sensitivity syndrome” or “Irlen Syndrome.” That is the condition that colored lenses are typically prescribed for.

      Dyslexia is very much a problem with words — it has to do with the way that the brain processes language. It is also very commonly associated with artistic talent, creative strengths, and inventiveness. For example, dyslexia is much more common among art students.

  • Lid

    I thought he wrote his notes this way so that others could not steal his ideas and the catholic church could not accuse him…

  • Luciana

    I NEVER KNEW HE HAD DYSLEXIA!!!!!!!
    SO AWESOME!

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      There is no way to know for sure whether Leonardo was dyslexic — all we can know is that he had many traits that are consistent with dyslexia.

  • viva

    Oh my Leonardo is awesome, learning about him is the best thing ever, always seeing the great Mona Lisa never imagined he did that painting…I so much love his last supper

  • Beth

    I teach ART:) to 500+ students each school year and love sharing this with my class…The students think it is so KOOL!!! like he is writing in secret code and try to duplicate his style.They quickly see how difficult this really is.

    Hopefully, this is EMPOWERING to my students who struggle with this challenge daily…

  • park j

    ahhhh chincha!!! this man is extremely talented but he made my homework hard!

  • I don’t know why I love this man .I love to be like him and Albert Einstein

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