Leonardo da Vinci: Five great inventions by the artist

Last updated at 05:15
Leonardo-Da-Vinci.Getty Images

To mark 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci died, we're looking back at his work.

You may be familiar with his paintings - The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper being two of his most famous - but did you know he also was a brilliant inventor?

See if you recognise any of these amazing things that he had a hand in inventing.


Leonardo-da-vincis-helicopter.Getty Images

Even though the first actual helicopter wasn't built until the 20th Century, it is thought that Leonardo da Vinci's sketches from the late 15th Century were pretty close to those of the modern day flying machine.

Although he never managed to build his creation, the notes and drawings mapped out exactly how the device would operate.


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An artist's impression of Leonardo da Vinci's parachute

Credit for the first practical parachute generally goes to a man called Louis-Sebastien Lenormand who invented it in 1783.

However, experts claim that Leonardo da Vinci actually came up with the parachute idea a few hundred years earlier.

Like the helicopter, da Vinci never got around to actually making a parachute, so he often doesn't get the credit.

Despite this, da Vinci's description speaks for itself. He explained: "If a man has a tent made of linen of which the apertures (openings) have all been stopped up, and it be twelve braccia (about 23 feet) across and 12 in depth, he will be able to throw himself down from any great height without suffering any injury."

In 2000, daredevil Adrian Nichols constructed a prototype based on da Vinci's design and tested it. After landing successfully, he said it had a smoother ride than normal parachutes!

Scuba diving gear

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Leonardo da Vinci's diving drawings

While working in Venice, the 'water city', in 1500, da Vinci designed scuba gear for sneak attacks on enemy ships from underwater.

The leather diving suit was equipped with a bag-like mask that went over the diver's head.

The tank

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Leonardo da Vinci's armoured car

Leonardo da Vinci developed a plan for an armoured vehicle that looked a little bit like a tank.

The vehicle was capable of moving in any direction and was equipped with a large number of weapons.

Again, he never actually made the invention, but he planned to power the vehicle with eight men inside constantly turning cranks and cogs to spin the wheels.

Self-propelled cart
A-prototype-of-Leonardo-da-Vinci's-self-propelled-cart.Getty Images
A prototype of Leonardo da Vinci's self-propelled cart

Leonardo's self-propelled cart is considered as an ancestor to the car.

It was designed to move without being pushed.

Powered by coiled springs, it also featured braking and pre-programmable steering systems.

However, da Vinci never actually managed to make it a reality.