Wan and Zhongyuan’s proposal and research on Leonardo da Vinci’s Wing Machine

Wan Lu and Zhongyuan Dai


We are very fascinated by his skills of construct those historical “automata”, and the most important, how closely they related to those contemporary mechanics. We want to focus on his famous flying machines, which truly brought heaven to earth. By researching his reconstructed models, we decided to not only reproduce a single one by our own but “invent” one by combining some of Leonardo’s main techniques.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mechanical bird wings

The first one we want to explore is Leonardo’s bird wings. [1] He did a complete study for the flying machine: after studying many devices, Leonardo began more than one design for a flying machine. Based on the body structure of birds, he studied the relationship of the body, the bone, and the muscle of bird wings. Also he was very much focused on the movement of a bird, and construct them rather abstractly. He used wood, string, and joints to represent bones and muscles. In our project, we are planning to reconstruct this relationship and trying to capture the beauty of movement.


The original sketch of Leonardo da Vinci and his explanation of the construction


Leonardo’s experiment of flapping wings with his original sketch and the modern reconstruction. The machine is driven by people pushing it by his weight.


Leonardo’s study of bird wings. His sketch illustrated the relationship of the feather, the bone, and its movement.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Circular Machines

The other element that we found really intriguing is the way that Leonardo not only reproduce the movement from nature, but rather used circle. the perfect geometry to construct them. His geometry, as Alberto said in class, when combined with his machines, truly represent the rationality from cosmos to the nature of earth. Through research, we also want to explore the circular movement in our machine, referenced on Leonardo’s gears and war machines.

The other topic that we found very interesting is that all the Leonardo`s machine are driven by human power. It is because of the lack of technology in his time, however it gave certain intimacy between men and machine, which is missing in our modern ear, For this reason we want our machine to be moved by people, not powered by electricity, and almost like a instrument. We want our machine to embody the instrumentality as well as the geometry proportion of the heaven and from men, together with the natural movement.


Leonardo`s study of circular movements. He invented the gear system to represent it.


The circular proportion of human body.


Leonardo`s original sketch of different circular geometry with his explanation.

Preliminary Research Bibliography

Laurenza, Domenico, Mario Taddei, and Edoardo Zanon. Leonardo’s Machines: Da Vinci’s Inventions Revealed. Cincinnati, OH: David & Charles, 2006. Print.
Rosheim, Mark E. Leonardo’s Lost Robots. Berlin: Springer, 2006. Print.
Leonardo, and Edward McCurdy. The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1938. Print.
Hart, Ivor B. The Mechanical Investigations of Leonardo Da Vinci,. Berkeley: University of California, 1963. Print.


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