Time Magazine: Man of the Millennium

Patrick Juola juola at mathcs.duq.edu
Mon Sep 28 14:50:31 EST 1998

In article <360f4c73.357122 at news.earthlink.net>,
Beast of Bourbon <locknar at NOSPAMearthlink.net> wrote:
>On 27 Sep 1998 10:33:26 GMT, joecosby at mixqam.seatac.net (Joe Cosby) wrote:
>>> Gold: da Vinci
>>Maybe my history is weak, I don't really know all that
>>much about the life of da Vinci.
>>But did he really have any -effect- on the world around
>>He has always seemed to be a fascinating genius, and to
>>embody the knowledge of his time, but did anything he
>>did ever lead to other things in turn?
>>He strikes me as a synthecist;  making fascinating
>>-applications- of knowledge as it existed in his time,
>>but he doesn't seem to have really advanced anything
>>-novel-, at least not in any influential way.
>Then you're limiting the scope of the "award" to one's influence on
>technological advancement.  I'm being a bit more free in my considerations.

Not necessarily technological advancement -- but I think that
restricting the scope of the award to someone who has influenced
society in some way is quite reasonable.

>Leonardo da Vinci is the supreme example of the creative potential of a human
>being.  His was "the most compulsive curiosity ever recorded," in the words of
>Kenneth MacLeish.
>He displayed mastery, or did extensive studies, of many fields and trades:
[laundry list omitted]

He also didn't *DO* anything with them.  I can't think of a single
one of the fields you mention in which there are any substantial
contributions made by Da Vinci, with the exception of painting, in
which he produced (at least) two acknowledged masterpieces.
Geometry?  I must have missed "Da Vinci's Theorem" when I took the
class.  I similarly missed the "Da Vinci" school of architecture 
(unlike, for example, Gropius).

Contrast Da Vinci's contributions with John von Neumann, who revolutionized
mathematics, computer science, and politics -- in the sense that
his contributions changed the fields significantly.  Da Vinci may have
known everything, but he did nothing with it.


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