As the original Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci did it all; the polymath was interested in everything from art to science to writing. The famous Renaissance artist's paintings, sculptures, and architectural achievements are as stunning as his intellectual contributions to history, anatomy, and mathematics.
One of the areas where Leonardo truly excelled was inventing. While observing the world around him, Leonardo took copious notes and made sketches detailing his surroundings. In the process, he came up with practical and impractical mechanisms alike, many designed to be used as tools of destruction. The expanse of Leonardo's imagination is apparent in some of these inventions, while others reveal just how ahead of his time the man was. He applied scientific principles to siege devices, crafted elaborate systems to move water, and developed what is largely believed to be the predecessor to the helicopter.
Leonardo da Vinci had conflicting views on combat, but he was pragmatic and came up with some pretty crazy wartime inventions.
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A Rotating Scythed Chariot Would Cut Down Anyone In Its Path
The ancient world of chariots would have fascinated a humanist like Leonardo da Vinci, and he sought to make improvements on that technology. In one of his drawings, Leonardo drew a chariot with large, powerful blades on the sides. Presumably, the sharp side-pieces were meant to rotate and cause maximum harm to all in the chariot's path.
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An Armored Vehicle Protected Its Driver And An Array Of Cannons
During the late 1480s, Leonard da Vinci designed what was essentially a covered cart to protect soldiers from incoming projectiles as they made their way into combat. The vehicle was developed for the Duke of Milan, and to facilitate movement, Leonardo included a system of gears and cranks so animals or humans could pull the weight of the machine.
The cart itself could carry several cannons with ammunition to hurl at one's enemy, and it allowed for 360-degree firing. The conical-shaped covering was made of metal plates and featured a turret from which soldiers could see where they were going while remaining protected. Leonardo blended the speed and agility of a chariot with the protective principle behind the Roman "tortoise formation" to protect soldiers on the move.
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A Triple-Barreled Cannon Allowed Artillery To Rapidly Fire Without Overheating
Comparable to his design for the 33-barreled organ, Leonardo da Vinci designed a cannon with three barrels to be fired in sequence. Leonardo realized the barrels needed to be cooled after firing; while that occurred, additional barrels on the device could be loaded and fired. Thanks to Leonardo's design, the cannon was much more effective and useful, with little to no downtime.
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Rear-Loading Cannons Provided Quicker Reloading Capabilities
Leonardo da Vinci developed a breech-loading system where cannon balls were loaded from the back. Previously, cannons and muzzle armaments were loaded from the front, a slower and much more dangerous practice.
Leonardo also suggested using water to cool cannons, preventing dangerous accidents and ultimately allowing for better accuracy. He posited using steam to power a copper cannon, but it's not clear if it was ever actually attempted.