# The Lives of the Mathematical Ninjas: Leonardo

[caption id=”attachment_163” align=”alignleft” width=”294” caption=”Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. Red chalk. 33 × 21 cm. Turin, Royal Library (inv.no. 15571)”][/caption]

(1452-1519. Leonardo was born just before the War of the Roses, and was about 40 when Columbus sailed to the Americas. He died not long after the start of the Reformation.)

I bet you’ve heard of Leonardo. Perhaps you’ve been to see the Mona Lisa, maybe you’ve read the Da Vinci code (I haven’t done either - I’ve been put off by the queues at the Louvre and the first few pages of the Da Vinci Code. I hope it gets better as you get into it). You hopefully remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though.

But beyond the whole art thing - and very little of Leonardo’s art survives - he was also an engineer and a mathematician. Plus, he was left-handed like me!

He may not have broken much ground as a mathematician - he wrote a book on the theory of mechanics and some pretty cool geometry - but he did say this:

“No human investigation can be called real science if it cannot be demonstrated mathematically.”

And people remember him for a helicopter that didn’t work and a painting of a woman with a wonky smile. Tsh.

*I’ve picked Leonardo as a Mathematical Ninja because he really epitomises my idea of what a mathematician should be: fascinated by the world around him, and curious to know how it works. He studied maths because it was useful, not because it was cool ((There’s a bit of a religious divide between applied mathematicians (maths is useful) and the pure mathematicians (maths is cool). I think we can coexist peacefully, but only because I’m on the applied side, and we have the catapults.)) and applied it to what he was interested in.*

Who would you nominate as a Mathematical Ninja?

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