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Leonardo da Vinci Biography

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) is one the world’s greatest thinkers, artists and philosophers. In several different fields, from science to astronomy, he proved to be both innovative and several centuries ahead of his contemporaries. He is considered to be a key person in the birth of the European renaissance period, which saw a flowering of new ideas, scientific discoveries and creation of beautiful art.

Short Biography of Leonardo da Vinci


Leonardo was born as illegitimate son of a Florentine noble and peasant woman Leonardo grew up in Vinci, Italy. In his formative years he developed a love of nature and from an early age displayed his remarkable talents and capacities.

In 1466 he moved to Florence where he entered the workshop of Verrocchio. His early style reflected his teacher, but he soon developed an artistic sense which went far beyond his teachers rigid style. His first work of great significance was the “Adoration of the Magi” commissioned by monks of San Donato a Scopeto. Although unfinished, the work was a masterpiece and introduced several new ideas. In particular he introduced the themes of movement and drama. He also pioneered the use of Chiaroscuro. This is the technique of defining forms through the contrast of light and shadow. This would be later used to great effect in the Mona Lisa.

In 1482 Leonardo went to the court of Ludovico Sforza for 16 years in Milan. Here he continued painting and also branched out into other interest such as engineering and anatomy.  During this period he painted the famous “Madonna on the Rocks” and also “the Last Supper” This has been described as one of the greatest spiritual paintings. With Christ at the centre of the picture it embodies great feeling and action as Christ is about to announce his imminent betrayal. Unfortunately over the time the quality of the original painting has deteriorated despite frequent restoration attempts.

Leonardo Da Vinci and Mona Lisa


In 1499 his patron L. Sfoza was defeated by the French invasion, thus Leonardo, after a time, returned to Florence. During this period he painted the fresco of the battle of Anghiari. This artwork was to exert tremendous influence over future artists. However it was unfortunately never completed and was later destroyed. It was also in this period that Leonardo completed The Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa is one of the worlds most famous and intriguing pictures. The Mona Lisa is a portrait of a wife of a Florentine noble. For several days she came to Leonardo and sat for her portrait to be painted. However she refused to smile, Leonardo even tried hiring musicians but to no avail. One day just for a fleeting second she gave a faint smile and Leonardo was able to capture it. Her smile encapsulates a tremendous mysteriousness which is both fascinating and intriguing. Sri Chinmoy said of the Mona Lisa.

That smile has immortalized her, immortalized the artist and immortalized the art. Artist and art have been immortalized by just a faint smile, a smile that has an enigmatic touch. Even now a soul-touch is there, and that soul-touch has conquered the heart of the world.” (1)


In this picture Leonardo masters the techniques of sfumato and chiaroscuro. Sfumato involves the most gradual switch from colour to the other giving a very delicate and expressive images. Chiaroscuro as mentioned before highlights the contrasts light and shadow. In the Mona Lisa this is most evident in the contrast between face and dark background.

In this period Leonardo extended his studies into engineering, science and other subjects. There seemed to be no end to his interest. He made copious notes in his complex mirror handwriting. A lot of which wasn’t deciphered in his lifetime. He also drew complex models of machines, in particular he was fascinated by flight. He used to buy birds just so that he could release them so he could enjoy watching them fly away. He also attempted to build a flying object himself. Machines that he drew on paper, such as helicopters, would become a reality many centuries later. If his medicinal studies had been published, it would have revolutionised the science, as he was one of the first to understand the circulation of blood within the body. There seemed to be no limit in the scope of his interest and work.

Between 1506-1510 Leonardo spent time in Milan working on behalf of the very generous French King Lois XII. In 1513 he travelled to Rome where he enjoyed the patronage of the new Medici pope, Leo X. Here he worked with contemporaries such as the great Masters Michelangelo and Raphael. In 1515 he left to settle at the castle of Cloux, near Amboise by the kind invitation of Francis I of France. Here he spent his last years free to pursue his own studies. He died in 1519 leaving behind one of the greatest body of artistic and scientific works.


Must Know, Science Gist, Science thrills

Galileo Galilei Biography

Galileo Galilei – Astronomer and Scientist 1564-1642. Galileo developed a superior telescope and made many significant discoveries in astronomy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by the inquisition for his support for the Copernican theory that the sun was at the centre of the solar system

Short Bio about Galileo

Galileo was born in Florence, Italy in 1564 to a poor but noble family.

His parents recognised their child’s innate intelligence and talents and so made sacrifices to have him educated. At his father’s insistence, Galileo studied the profitable career of medicine. But, at the University of Pisa, Galileo became fascinated in a wide range of subjects. He was also critical of many of Aristotle’s teaching which had dominated education for the past 2,000 years.

Galileo was appointed to be a mathematics professor at the university of Pisa, but, his strident criticisms of Aristotle, left him isolated amongst his contemporaries. After three years of persecution, he resigned and went to the university of Padua. Here he taught maths. His entertaining lectures attracted a large following and he was able to spend the next 18 years pursuing his interests in astronomy and mechanics.

Louis Pasteur

During this time, Galileo made important discoveries about gravity, inertia and also developed the forerunner of the thermometer. Galileo also worked tirelessly on the science of gnomonics (telling time by shadows) and the laws of motion.

It was in astronomy that Galileo that became famous and for his views, he also courted the opposition of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Galileo came to the same conclusions of Copernicus – that the sun was the centre of the universe and not the earth. By inventing the world’s first telescope, Galileo was able to make many explorations of the universe. He found that:

  • Saturn had a beautiful ring of clouds.
  • The moon was not flat but had mountains and craters.
  • Jupiter had many moons which revolved around Jupiter rather than directly the sun.

Thus, Galileo not only had the mathematical proofs of Copernicus, but, also new proof from the science of astronomy. However, Galileo knew that publishing these studies would bring the disapproval of the church authorities.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

— Galileo Galilei, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina

The Church had already started to forbid the teachings of his teachings, especially anything that supported Copernicus. However, in 1623, a new pope, Pope Urban VIII seemed to be more liberally minded and he allowed Galileo to publish his great works on astronomy and supporting the works of Copernicus.

However, after publication, elements within the Church sought to attack Galileo’s position. Thus, Galileo was arrested and imprisoned for several months. He was convicted of heresy and was forced to recant his beliefs. He spent the remaining years of his life under house arrest at Arceti.

Galileo had three children. He was especially close to one of his daughters, Polissena; she took the name of Sister Maria Celeste and entered a convent near Arceti.

Philosophy [nature] is written in that great book which ever is before our eyes — I mean the universe — but we cannot understand it if we do not first learn the language and grasp the symbols in which it is written. The book is written in mathematical language, and the symbols are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without whose help it is impossible to comprehend a single word of it; without which one wanders in vain through a dark labyrinth.”

— Galileo Galilei

Despite being censured by the church, Galileo continued to make discoveries until death overtook him in 1642. Under house arrest, he was able to write Two New Sciences, this summarised his earlier work on the new sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials He was blind by the time he passed away.

Citation : Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Galileo Galilei“, Oxford, – 28th Sept. 2011.

10 Galileo Facts

  1. He was born in Pisa, and studied at the University of Pisa
  2. His book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World System, defended the heliocentric view of the universe – with the earth not the sun at the centre.
  3. Using his own telescope, he discovered four moons of Jupiter – Io, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa.
  4. His telescopes increased magnification from around just 2x to around 30x magnification.
  5. He also worked on the pendulum clock
  6. Inventions of Galileo included his own models of compass and thermometer. He wasn’t the first person to invent these, but he improved on their models.
  7. Galileo said on the force of nature. ‘ Nature is relentless and unchangeable, and it is indifferent as to whether its hidden reasons and actions are understandable to man or not. ‘
  8. Galileo was a pious Roman Catholic (he seriously considered priesthood as young man), though in science he didn’t accept the doctrinal view. The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.”
  9. His daughter Maria Celeste was very devoted to Galileo, and she undertook to say his penitent psalms once a week on his behalf.
  10. Galileo’s Principle of Inertia -“A body moving on a level surface will continue in the same direction at constant speed unless disturbed.” was incorporated into Newton’s laws of motion