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Learning from Leonardo

Decoding the Notebooks of a Genius
Hardcover Book
Publisher: 
Berrett-Koehler
 | 
November, 2013
ISBN:
9781609949891
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Banyen's Description: 

Leonardo da Vinci was a brilliant artist, scientist, engineer, mathematician, architect, inventor, and even musician—the archetypal Renaissance man. But he was also a profoundly modern man.

Not only did Leonardo invent the empirical scientific method over a century before Galileo and Francis Bacon, but Capra’s decade-long study of Leonardo’s fabled notebooks reveals that he was a systems thinker centuries before the term was coined. At the very core of Leonardo’s science, Capra argues, lies his persistent quest for understanding the nature of life. His science is a science of living forms, of qualities and patterns, radically different from the mechanistic science that emerged 200 years later.

Because he saw the world as an integrated whole, Leonardo always applied concepts from one area to illuminate problems in another. His studies of the movement of water informed his ideas about how landscapes are shaped, how sap rises in plants, how air moves over a bird’s wing, and how blood flows in the human body. His observations of nature enhanced his art, his drawings were integral to his scientific studies, and he brought art, science, and technology together in his beautiful and elegant mechanical and architectural designs.

Capra describes seven defining characteristics of Leonardo da Vinci’s genius and includes a list of over forty discoveries he made that weren’t rediscovered until centuries later. Capra follows the organizational scheme Leonardo himself intended to use if he ever published his notebooks. So in a sense, this is Leonardo’s science as he himself would have presented it.

Today, as we are developing a new systemic understanding of life with a strong emphasis on complexity, networks, and patterns of organization, we are witnessing the gradual emergence of a science of qualities that has some striking similarities with Leonardo’s science of living forms.

 As Capra shows throughout the book, Da Vinci practiced a science and technology that honored and respected the unity of all life, recognized the fundamental interdependence of all natural phenomena, and connected the microcosm (the human being) with the macrocosm (the living Earth). That is exactly the kind of science and technology we need today.

Among Fritjof Capra’s other books are The Tao of Physics and The Web of Life.

Publisher’s Description: 

Leonardo da Vinci is celebrated as the archetypal Renaissance man. He made extraordinary discoveries in numerous fields and pioneered entire disciplines, among them fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, theoretical botany, and embryology. Leonardo's unique synthesis of art, science, and technology is not only fascinating intellectually but also very relevant to our time - it prefigures modern systems theory. Our sciences and technologies have become increasingly narrow in their focus, unable to understand our multi-faceted problems from an interdisciplinary perspective; and our business and political leaders are often incapable of "connecting the dots." This is exactly what we can learn from Leonardo. As the author shows throughout the book, Da Vinci practiced a science and technology that honored and respected the unity of all life, recognized the fundamental interdependence of all natural phenomena, and connected the microcosm (the human being) with the macrocosm (the living Earth). That is exactly the kind of science and technology we need today.

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