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Full Access Leonardo and the “Chemical Arts”

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Leonardo and the “Chemical Arts”

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Our traditional vision of Leonardo da Vinci is based principally on his studies of mechanics, hydraulics, optics, geology, meteorology, and anatomy. However, a perusal of his manuscripts reveals his lifelong interest in chemistry and metallurgy, fields to which he contributed both as an innovator and as a reliable chronicler of the technological inventions of others. He conducted studies on various types of materials (including glass, paper, and le terre di fusione, the clay used in the lost wax process) and sought to develop more efficient alembics and metallurgical furnaces, as well as ingenious devices to study the elements and the dynamics of the transformation of matter. Leonardo’s atelier therefore could be viewed as a veritable ‘technical laboratory’ in which he conducted experiments not only on the techniques and materials required for his art, but also to satisfy his thirst for knowledge by engaging in the heuristic study of natural and artificial phenomena.

Affiliations: 1: Università di Bergamo; Museo Galileo, Italy, Email:, URL:


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