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Science Technology

How Accurate Were Leonardo Da Vinci's Anatomy Drawings? 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the ahead-of-the-curve dept.
antdude writes "BBC News answers how accurate were Leonardo da Vinci's anatomy drawings — 'During his lifetime, Leonardo made thousands of pages of notes and drawings on the human body. He wanted to understand how the body was composed and how it worked. But at his death in 1519, his great treatise on the body was incomplete and his scientific papers were unpublished. Based on what survives, clinical anatomists believe that Leonardo's anatomical work was hundreds of years ahead of its time, and in some respects it can still help us understand the body today. So how do these drawings, sketched more than 500 years ago, compare to what digital imaging technology can tell us today?'"
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How Accurate Were Leonardo Da Vinci's Anatomy Drawings?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:23PM (#39909817)

    This Leonardo must be a genius!

    Doh!

  • by wickerprints (1094741) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @02:40PM (#39909899)

    The biggest insight I gleaned from the article was when the author described da Vinci's approach to anatomy as being that of an engineer's and an architect, and how that perspective allowed him to interpret the body structures he saw. Remember high school biology dissection labs? Or if you studied anatomy in college, remember the profound disconnect between seeing a perfectly laid-out diagram of an organism, versus actually going in and dissecting one in reality? You think that when you cut a creature open, that you'll see some version of those drawings just sitting there in front of you, labeled and color-coded and all structures clearly defined. Instead, I acutely remember my surprise when cutting open a rat, a frog, and an earthworm, that all I really saw at first was a jumbled pink/brown mess of innards. Things moved around, didn't have the shape I thought they would, and if someone hadn't already drawn the diagrams I would've been at a complete loss as to how to describe what I saw, let alone try to make an anatomically faithful reproduction of it.

    That should give you a better understanding of just how amazing da Vinci's observational skills were.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @03:04PM (#39910053) Homepage

    Much of DaVinci's artwork (most of it) is of people. One of his incredible talents was the ability to draw people in a lifelike pose. That requires a keen eye, good eye / hand coordination and an understanding of anatomical function. I'm not so sure that it was his 'engineer's eye' more than his 'artist's eye'. Of course, we're making an artificial distinction here - art and engineering don't have to be separate and many humans appreciate the intersection of the two concepts.

    But I see those drawings as an attempt by DaVinci to understand how the human body works so he can express his vision of human form / function in his art.

    He still was a friggin genius, no matter what he was thinking or doing or smoking....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2012 @03:23PM (#39910145)

    The rule should be: "any headline which ends in a question mark and which starts with a verb (or a noun/pronoun perhaps also?) ..."

    If the first word is "how", "why", "when", "where", "who"... the words "yes" and "no" make no sense as an answer. Oh, you knew that already?

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:29PM (#39910427) Journal

    If all da Vinci had done was make accurate anatomical drawings, he'd be another Renaissance genius. What makes da Vinci possibly the most gifted human being in the history of our species is that while he was dissecting bodies to learn how they functioned, he was also designing hydraulic systems, helicopters, submarines, oh, and being one of the greatest painters in all of history. What has, since his time down to ours made him the most breathtaking of intellects was that his genius truly knew no bounds. Every topic fascinated him, and if he turned his mind to understanding it, he seemed almost effortlessly to do so.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Sunday May 06, 2012 @04:39PM (#39910473)

    I acutely remember my surprise when cutting open a rat, a frog, and an earthworm, that all I really saw at first was a jumbled pink/brown mess of innards

    Since you mentioned architecture briefly, this is surprisingly true there as well, especially if it's an older building and you don't have good documentation of the original plans [slashdot.org]. You cut into things and there's this jumble of wires in the wall going who knows where, some wood or concrete that may or may not be load bearing, a foundation built on top of another foundation that wasn't mentioned in any plans, some pipes that might've been from the previous era's sewer system, etc. Often true even if you do have the plans, especially when it comes to things like what the wiring looks like in the diagrams versus in the wall. And it's even worse in the subterranean space of cities outside of buildings; one of many reasons building a subway line is so expensive.

  • Re:Impressive. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by similar_name (1164087) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @06:45PM (#39911231)
    Report Gamemaker to Google [google.com]. Maybe if they are removed from all search results they will run out of money to carry on this annoying spam campaign.
  • by Genda (560240) <mariet.got@net> on Sunday May 06, 2012 @10:05PM (#39912269) Journal

    Clearly you've not done much dissection. Besides being perhaps the greatest artist of his age, virtually invented from whole cloth 2 and 3 point point perspective, hyper-realistic painting, chiaroscuro, anatomically/proportionally correct artwork (look up the "Grotesques"), he was probably one of the greatest scientific minds of all time. His vision, perception was unrivaled. He sketched water flowing over rocks and captured eddies and micro-currents that we can see today only in super high speed stop motion photography. He broke down the relationships between math and the universe. He observed that art was science and that science was art and that everything was mathematics. His inventions are brilliant even by today's standard. He invented the glider, the helicopter, the tank, the submarine, and a thousand other things we'll never know about.

    His dissection and further record of human anatomy was inspired because he saw the engineering of the human body, and appreciated the brilliance of its design. He was able to discern function from form and so rather than simply capturing an amorphous blob of body matter (what you or I might see), was able to distinguish critical structure and functional anatomy and record it in such a way that the information imparted rivals techniques and illustrations based on technology 500 years later. More than a genius, he transcended his own time by centuries, and points to a human potential that is at once shocking and exciting.

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday May 07, 2012 @01:12AM (#39913009)

    I imagine if a doctor went around digging up bodies without permission and dissecting them, he would be imprisioned even today.

  • by hex socket (1289574) on Monday May 07, 2012 @02:06AM (#39913215)

    Or he just cut up a lot of dead bodies to get the dimensions right.

    It's not as easy as you think. Think of spaghetti code made flesh: Spaghetti nerves, spaghetti arteries, veins everywhere... And then there are the variations. No two bodies are wired exactly the same, especially after they've been cut open. Even with modern references and anatomy books, it takes a lot of studying to make sense of a cadaver.

    The summary exaggerates a bit by implying we can still learn anatomy from Leonardo's sketches. Sure, they're prettier than the sketches adorning the walls of my dorm room (I'm a medical student) but they're nowhere near as accurate as, say, Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy. Leonardo had a lot of systems wrong, especially where female anatomy was concerned. His work was amazing for its time, but we've done much better since then.

  • by tbird81 (946205) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:21AM (#39913675)

    My absolutely uneducated guess is that people were more used to disgusting smells and sights in those days. People would slaughter, skin and butcher their own animals. Meat was stored for a long time. People shat everywhere. People didn't know how diseases were transmitted.

    So I think it wasn't as gross to him as it is to us.

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