Author Archives: luwanarch

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.

Wan Lu’s map of Rome

It is hand drawn on black cardboard.

Leno Battista Alberti delineated the city of Rome used the instrument made by his own based on the principle of perspective and mathematics. He recorded the lineation of the walls, the river , the streets, the temples the outlines of the hills of the city Rome. His mathematical way of delineating is functional without measuring the actual distance, and his map is remarkable precise compared to the easiness of the way of measuring.

The instrument had two parts, a circle that acting as horizon, which indicates the size of the map, and a rod “spoke”. Each of them was divided to certain subdivisions, which in his description he divided them into 50 degrees and 4 minutes for one degree each to make it precise. The horizon was marked the four directions, the east, the west, the south and the north.

Then he set several points on the city walls and rivers based on their corners and the point that their curvature reached the highest. He also marked several important location in the city such as the Portas. He chose the capito as his measuring point because it is the tallest building in Rome and he could oversee all the locations from there. By using the rule of perspective he measured the relatively distance and angle of those locations from his standing point on his instrument, and filled in the table with the measurements. After that, he used those measurements to mark those points on his map of Rome and connects them based on the corners and curvatures. In this way he made his delineation of the city Rome.

Wan Lu’s Replication of Johann Anto Linden’s Astrolabe

The Astrolabe was made by Johann Anton Linden in the year of 1580, Heibronn. It was originally constructed with brass. It was firstly presented by Lewis Evans in the year of 1924.

My copy of this astrolabe is made with paper. It comes with a rete of the heart-shape, a rete for 39 stars. The zodiac on the rete is labelled: 1 ARIES , 2 TAVRVS , 3 GEMINI , 4 CANCER , 5 LEO , 6 VIRGO , 7 LIBRA , 8 SCORPIO , 9 SAGITTARIVS , 10 CAPRICORNVS , 11 AQVARIVS , 12 PISCES. It was hand drawn with pencil on two-ply paper.

There are two steps using this astrolabe to tell the time. First you need to observe the star during the night to set the astrolabe.First use the back of the astrolabe to point the star. When it is aligned read the matching zodiac on the zodiac on the zodiac scale. It shows the position of the sun at that day. Second, turn to the front of the astrolabe and locate the position of the star on the ecliptic ring on the rete then use the ruler to align with that point. Third, fix the ring and the rete, turn the ruler so it points to a time of that night. Then the astrolabe is settled.

The second step is to observe the sun during the day to tell the time.First hang the astrolabe by its throne to align it perpendicular to the ground. Use the calendar scale and zodiac scale at the back to convert the given date to zodiac. Second, use the alidade to point the sun using the two sights to make sure that their sight hole aligns. When they align mark the altitude using the elevation scale at the outer  rings. Locate the star of interest on the star pointer as a reference point on the front. Third, rotate the rete and locate it on the altitude. Last, rotate the ruler so it points to the zodiac on the ecliptic ring on the rete.

Then you can read the time from the other end of this ruler.