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.


  • 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


  • Colin Cherry

    When I learned to write I too wrote back to front. And yes, I’m left handed and was diagnosed at 40 with dyslexia., born in 1950 not too many people actually understood or even recognised this wonderful attribute.

    Once I worked up some work arounds its never stood in my way, sure difficulties at times with expressing myself, terrible short term memory, reading age at 71 of 14 however visual memory, inventiveness, problem solving – top of the class!!

  • Lorenzo

    I think he wrote this way to conceal his designs & ideas from being stolen and reproduced, that we know. Most are mirrored & transposed scripts. Different ciphers too. He may have also been dyslexic too though.

  • Coby

    This helps for my project idk about these invenchons

  • Nazaria SL

    Leonardo D’ Vinci was a genius! I think he wrote in that way to hide his inventions.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      I think a genius who wanted to hide his work would come up with a better code system. Most people who can read can also read text that is written backwards, even if it is difficult. And his writing would have been legible to anyone using a mirror. Among Leonardo’s many inventions was a mirror grinding machine — so not only did he understand how mirrors work, but also was trying to improve the technology to create them.

      • amanda

        not everyone was able to write/read in the XVIth century. mirrors were expensive back then, they were a symbol of richness. many people didn’t have them, therefore he wrote his plans backwards so nobody would steal his plans.

        • Andrew

          Again, he would come up with something better than that.

          • APC

            I am dyslexic I could write backwards as fast as forwards with practice when a kid. I might have been left handed but the was discouraged in the time of my childhood. My son, more severely dyslexic is left handed and can write backwards. Both of us are very inventive and resourceful. Da Vinci was dyslexic, take it from one.

  • David

    Most likely reason he wrote right-to-left:
    being left-handed and writing with quill & ink, you don’t get ink on your hand/arm when starting on the right edge of the page.

  • 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.

    • Jon

      Me being severely dyslexic I disagree with your theory due to the fact in school I would know the answer to a mathematical equation for example if the answer was 13 on paper I wrote 31 I know when I was very young words were backwards and I wrote them in the manner that I saw them. As said in comments there are many forms and stages of dyslexia reading comprehension being most common the most severe which pretty much covers all stages of dyslexia accompanied by seeing mirrored image (backwards as some say) can make certain things extremely difficult being dyslexic dose not constitute stupidity as alot of people believe. We process information very differently I’m old enough that it wasn’t very common as a child now a days there’s schools for children with dyslexia where iPad to teach myself to write things backwards Fe the way I saw them it creates mass confusion and years to sort out. So people misunderstand the confusion for stupidity. That can be a big advantage once a person gets their mind sorted. My I. Q is pretty high in spite of the hard to deal with confusion that still accompaniese after 50 years. Yes I’m intelligent enough to know a high IQ doesn’t constitute intelligence nor dose a low IQ constitute ignorance.

    • mab

      The backwards writing I think was more because it helped to stop smudging the ink because he was left handed.

      • Jd kirk

        Im left handed and was a total reverse writer my mom had me write. In sand while she guided me to write the letters normal.to this day I cant spell.I can write either hand on a chalk board and through and shoot right handed.I was born in 1964 and never diagnosed dyslexic but having cross dominance.I believe I am dyslexic but love and can read.

  • 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…

    • Peter A Harrison ilm

      his original design plans for the tank had the gears round the wrong way, he was left handed and dyslexic, as i am. Dyslexia has many different levels but basically the brain processes information differently and the short term memory has a tendency to fade or erase itself. If you can imagine one half of the brain going at 100 hundred miles an hour and the other half trying to process it at 2miles an hour you might get a glimpse

  • Luciana


    • 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.

    • Margaret

      In my opinion, psychologically and mentally speaking, da Vinci was intrinsic and had a powerful trait. I apologize for staying off the subject in regards to dyslexia, but mirror writing was my happy place. I was about 5 years old when I discovered this and I felt so alive at the moment. I looked around and watched my siblings and parents with excitement and shared my “talent”. It wasn’t validated and praised, and was told that it is not normal. I write with my left hand but I believe I am ambidextrous. I can write with my right perfectly as well. It tends to get crooked after a few minutes but it is legible. I am almost 40 years old and I still enjoy mirror writing. Dyslexia has given me opportunities to work with amazing talents and see things in a different light, perspective. It has given me an appreciation for education and eager to correct and better myself. Reading and Math was my downfall, but having kids and doing homework with them supports it.

  • 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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