The Renaissance

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci was an Italian artist, scientist, mathematician, architect, inventor, and military engineer during the Renaissance period in Italy. In his early years Leonardo learned basic writing, mathematics, and reading besides that Leonardo was noted to have artistic skill and was therefore apprenticed to Andrea Verrocchio of Florence when he was 14. When he was 20 years old he established his own workshop in Florence’s guild of Saint Luke though he continued to collaborate with his teacher and finished Verrocchio’s “Baptism of Christ” together. In 1478 Da Vinci was contracted to create an altarpiece and three years later tasked with creating the painting “Adoration of the Magi” Da Vinci left however without completing either projects. In 1482 after completing a piece for Lorenzo de Medici he asked to work for the Sforza family as a military engineer. Impressed by his designs Ludovico hired Da Vinci for a period that would last 17 years. In the 1480’s Da Vinci dissected humans and animals and drew some of the very first drawings of things such as sex organs, the vascular system and others in an attempt to be able to draw the intention of a man’s soul. Da Vinci also created sketches of machines that would later act as a glider, a helicopter, and a bicycle. In 1495 Ludovico contracted Leonardo to create the painting known as the “Last Supper” which depicts the occasion when Jesus tells his disciples that one of them will betray him. Sometime in his stay with the Sforza family Da Vinci was contracted to create a bronze statue of the Ludovico’s father although this was destroyed when the French took the city and Da Vinci fled Italy along with the Sforza family. In 1503 Da Vinci began work work on his greatest painting the Mona Lisa. It never left his side only at his death as Da Vinci attempted to create what he dubbed “The perfect painting.”The painting is of Lisa del Giocondo a Florence noblewoman. No one knows why he chose her. Some say the Giocondo family contracted him, however if this is so then they never received the painting. Today it hangs the France’s art museum the Louvre as a priceless national treasure. In 1506 Da Vinci returned to Milan and worked for its French Rulers as well as taking on his closest student young Francesco Melzi. During that time though Da Vinci did very little painting and instead focused on science investigations and experiments. Ironically enough Gian Giacomo Trivulzio the Frenchman who took Milan also commissioned Da Vinci to create a statue of himself which was never finished. Later he moved to Rome where he also studied mathematics and science. In 1515 he became France’s “Premier Engineer, Architect, and Painter to the King.” One of his last pieces was a lion that could open its chest revealing lilies. He continued his scientific experiments until his death on May 2, 1519.

Michelangelo di Lodovico

Michelangelo di Lodovico was one of the Renaissance’s most famous artists along with Da Vinci and others. In his younger years he never went to school and instead watched artists at nearby churches and drew what he saw. When he was 13 yrs. old Francesco Granacci introduced Michelangelo to artist Domenico Ghirlandaio who taught him about frescoes. Michelangelo became Domenico’s apprentice for only a year before moving into the Medici palace. There he was exposed to prominent poets, scholars, and humanists, studied corpses for study on anatomy, and was taught by respected sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni between 1489-1492. Experiences like this shaped him and his artistic style which was a muscular precision combined with lyrical beauty.”Battle of the Centaurs” and “Madonna seated on a step” are some of his first works. When Lorenzo de Medici was killed Michelangelo fled Florence, but later returned in 1495 to begin making pieces. While in Florence he created a Cupid piece which was aged and bought by Cardinal Riario of San Giorgio who later realized he was duped and demanded his money back. In the end Riario was so impressed with Michelangelo’s work he let him keep his money and invited him to live in Rome where Michelangelo would live and work for the rest of his life. Shortly after moving to Rome he finished the famous “Pieta” which is a sculpture of Mary holding the dead Jesus across her lap. “Pieta” is the only work which he put his name on (Michelangelo signed his name on a sash across Mary’s chest.) At the time Michelangelo was only 25 yrs. old. Michelangelo later returned to Florence and attempted the creation of “David” two previous sculptors had tried the project and failed, but he turned the 17 ft. piece of marble into a dominating figure. Multiple commissions followed including a project concerning the tomb of Pope Julius II, but the latter was interrupted as he was instead asked to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The project fueled Michelangelo’s imagination, and the original plan for 12 apostles morphed into more than 300 figures on the ceiling of the sacred space. (The work later had to be completely removed soon after due to an infectious fungus in the plaster, and then recreated.) Michelangelo fired all of his assistants, whom he deemed inept, and completed the 65-foot ceiling alone, spending endless hours on his back and guarding the project jealously until revealing the finished work, on October 31, 1512. After that Michelangelo continued to work on Pope Julius the II’s tomb, but the years of working on his back took it’s toll on him so he turned to architecture. The Medici Chapel and Laurentian Library designed to hold books were designed by him and considered a turning point in architecture. In 1546 Michelangelo was made chief architect of the St. Peter’s Basilica also known as the Vatican. In later years Michelangelo became more of a literary artist than a physical one including writing more than 300 poems and sonnets about Vittoria Colonna a widowed noblewoman who he is presumed to have been in love wth. Following a brief illness Michelangelo died on February 18. 1564. He was 89 yrs. old.

Galileo Galilee

Galileo Galilei was an Italian philosopher, engineer, scientist, mathematician, and physicist during the Renaissance period. Galileo was born on February 15, 1564 just three days before the death of Michelangelo. In 1574 his father moved the family to Florence where he began his education. In 1583 he attended the University of Pisa to study medicine. However he became fascinated by mathematics and physics and studied those instead. While at Pisa he was exposed to the Aristotelian view of the world and was on his way to becoming a professor when he had to leave due to a lack of funds in 1585. Galileo continued to study mathematics, supporting himself with minor teaching positions. During this time he began his two-decade study on objects in motion and published The Little Balance, describing the hydrostatic principles of weighing small quantities, which brought him some fame. This gained him a teaching post at the University of Pisa, in 1589. There Galileo conducted his fabled experiments with falling objects and produced his manuscript Du Motu (On Motion), a departure from Aristotelian views about motion and falling objects. Galileo developed an arrogance about his work, and his strident criticisms of Aristotle left him isolated among his colleagues. In 1592, his contract with the University of Pisa was not renewed. Galileo quickly found a new position at the University of Padua, teaching geometry, mechanics and astronomy. The appointment was fortunate, for his father had died in 1591, leaving Galileo entrusted with the care of his younger brother Michelagnolo. During his 18-year tenure at Padua, he gave entertaining lectures and attracted large crowds of followers, further increasing his fame and his sense of mission.In 1604, Galileo published The Operations of the Geometrical and Military Compass, revealing his skills with experiments and practical technological applications. He also constructed a hydrostatic balance for measuring small objects. These developments brought him additional income and more recognition. That same year, Galileo refined his theories on motion and falling objects, and developed the universal law of acceleration, which all objects in the universe obeyed. Galileo began to express openly his support of the Copernican theory that the earth and planets revolved around the sun. This challenged the doctrine of Aristotle and the established order set by the Catholic Church. In July 1609, Galileo learned about a simple telescope built by Dutch eyeglass makers, and he soon developed one of his own. In August, he demonstrated it to some Venetian merchants, who saw its value for spotting ships and gave Galileo salary to manufacture several of them. However, Galileo’s ambition pushed him to go further, and in the fall of 1609 he made the fateful decision to turn his telescope toward the heavens. In March 1610, he published a small booklet, The Starry Messenger, revealing his discoveries that the moon was not flat and smooth, but a sphere with mountains and craters. He found Venus had phases like the moon, proving it rotated around the sun. He also discovered Jupiter had revolving moons, which didn’t revolve around the earth. Soon Galileo began mounting a body of evidence that supported Copernican theory and contradicted Aristotle and Church doctrine. In 1612, he published his Discourse on Bodies in Water, refuting the Aristotelian explanation of why objects float in water, saying that it wasn’t because of their flat shape, but instead the weight of the object in relation to the water it displaced. In 1613, he published his observations of sunspots, which further refuted Aristotelian doctrine that the sun was perfect. That same year, Galileo wrote a letter to a student to explain how Copernican theory did not contradict Biblical passages, stating that scripture was written from an earthly perspective and implied that science provided a different, more accurate perspective. The letter was made public and Church Inquisition consultants pronounced Copernican theory heretical. In 1616, Galileo was ordered not to “hold, teach, or defend in any manner” the Copernican theory regarding the motion of the earth. Galileo obeyed the order for seven years, partly to make life easier and partly because he was a devoted Catholic.In 1632, Galileo published the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, a discussion among three people: one who supports Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the universe, one who argues against it, and one who is impartial. Though Galileo claimed Dialogues was neutral, it was clearly not. The advocate of Aristotelian belief comes across as the simpleton, getting caught in his own arguments.Church reaction against the book was swift, and Galileo was summoned to Rome. The Inquisition proceedings lasted from September 1632 to July 1633. During most of this time, Galileo was treated with respect and never imprisoned. However, in a final attempt to break him, Galileo was threatened with torture, and he finally admitted he had supported Copernican theory, but privately held that his statements were correct. He was convicted of heresy and spent his remaining years under house arrest. Though ordered not to have any visitors nor have any of his works printed outside of Italy, he ignored both. In 1634, a French translation of his study of forces and their effects on matter was published, and a year later, copies of the Dialogue were published in Holland. While under house arrest, Galileo wrote Two New Sciences, a summary of his life’s work on the science of motion and strength of materials. It was printed in Holland in 1638. By this time, he had become blind and in ill health.Galileo died in Arcetri, near Florence, Italy, on January 8, 1642, after suffering from a fever and heart palpitations. But in time, the Church couldn’t deny the truth in science. In 1758, it lifted the ban on most works supporting Copernican theory, and by 1835 dropped its opposition to heliocentrism altogether.In the 20th century, several popes acknowledged the great work of Galileo, and in 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret about how the Galileo affair was handled. Galileo's contribution to our understanding of the universe was significant not only in his discoveries, but in the methods he developed and the use of mathematics to prove them. He played a major role in the scientific revolution and, deservedly so, earned the moniker "The Father of Modern Science."