Archive for September, 2011

Visions of the World’s most famous Artist

Obsessed with the Science of Sight

Lately I have had a little bit of an obsession with Leonardo, and no, I don’t mean DiCaprio. Nope, not the teenage mutant ninja turtle either. I’m speaking solely in regards to the man, Leonardo Da Vinci. And who could blame me for my fascination with him. His scientific contributions and inventions are many, his soulful genius and passion infinite.

Some of my favorite Da Vinci quotes:

“a well spent day brings happy sleep”

“all our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions”

“learning never exhausts the mind”

“simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

“while I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die”

“who sows virtue reaps honor”

Leonardo's drawing theorizing 'How Sight Works'

A true renaissance man, Leonardo was an artist, inventor and scientist. He was known to take long walks and sketch everything he saw, scribbling all of his observations down in his many notebooks. From this sprung his keen eye for accurately portraying perspective. He studied how things looked in bright light and in dim light, how objects appeared when they were near to him versus far, he was known for his attention to detail, even going so far as to grotesquely dissect the cadavers of criminals to discern the tiniest of aspects of anatomy. His curiosity in science extended from anatomy to zoology, botany, geology, optics, aerodynamics and hydrodynamics. A true science geek, he yearned to know everything about the world around him, as so many in science do, wanting to know everything from “how birds could fly” to “how the eye sees.”

Drawing portraying Da Vinci's revelation that the fovea is our line of sight giving us our central and most detailed vision.

He is credited with the discovery of the fovea centralis, the center of the retina of the eye which gives us our central and most detailed vision. This is the part of the eye which is our “line of sight,” it is where we direct our visual attention. For example, if you were playing baseball and the coach said “keep your eye on the ball” it would be the fovea of the eye aimed at the ball, locking it into your central vision. The peripheral part of the retina gives us our peripheral vision. And Leonardo was the first to reason this! That alone, in my eyes, is astounding. Obviously, in the eye care world and in the realm of vision science, he is a hero.

Now, I have never read the Da Vinci Code books nor have I seen the movie. However, I did find something interesting while doing a little research on our friend Leo. It seems in December of 2010, a discovery was made involving one of Da Vinci’s most well-known paintings, the Mona Lisa. Through modern spectral imaging techniques, it was observed that Leonardo did leave a little hidden message for everyone. In the pupil of one of Mona Lisa’s eyes, he painted his own initials “LV” and in the other pupil, there is something else written that is undecipherable, either the letters “CE” or perhaps a “B”. The exact reasoning for these letters being there of course remains a mystery. However, with the eyes being the window of the soul and Da Vinci’s obsession with the eye and vision we can only guess it was something of significance and importance to him. Maybe he was trying to tell us something, maybe it was…

“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” -Leonardo

…to never stop looking and learning.

References for info on Leo:

His Discovery of the Fovea

Hidden Mona Lisa Discovery Dec 2010

Museum of Science in Boston 



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