Thursday, August 13, 2009

5 Da Vinci War Machines (PART 2)

Wall Defense
Leonardo designed complex and ingenious methods of defence. Here, when the walls are under attack, the soldiers hidden behind the battlements could quickly and easily ward-off enemies and their single movement by using a system of levers. As the enemy used ladders in an attempt to breach the walls, the levers were engaged to move the rails built into the walls that the ladders were leaning on, causing them to become unstable and eventually fall.


This is perhaps one of the most famous of Da Vinci’s projects. His idea of reaping panic and destruction among enemy troops was envisioned in this tortoise-shaped vehicle, reinforced with metal plates, and ringed with cannons. In a job application to the Duke of Milan, Da Vinci boasted "I can make armoured cars, safe and unassailable, which will enter the close ranks of the enemy with their artillery, and no company of soldiers is so great that they will not break through them. And behind these the infantry will be able to follow quite unharmed and without any opposition." Da Vinci’s precursor to the modern tank surely could have created "shock and awe" on the 15th-century battlefield, the design contained some serious flaws. Even with several modifications to the original plans he continued to be faced with a number of unresolved problems and eventually abandoned the project.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Terminator

Leonardo Da Vinci’s mechanical knight was not discovered until 1957, when Carlo Pedretti discovered it, hidden amongst Da Vinci’s countless designs. The mechanical knight, first sketched by DaVinci in 1495, was mentioned in 1974, in the Codex Madrid edited by Ladislao Reti, but there was no attempt to reconstruct it until 1996 when Mark Rosheim published an independent study of the robot, followed by a joint enterprise with the Florence Institute and Museum of the History of Science.
However, it was not until 2002 that Rosheim built a complete physical model of the robot for a BBC documentary. Since then, a soldier on wheels labelled, “Leonardo’s robot” has been included in countless exhibitions and museums.
In the 2007 Mario Taddei made a new research on Da Vinci’s original documents finding enough data to build a version of the soldier robot, more closely related to the original drawings. This robot was designed just for defensive purposes, not for war or theatre. Its movements are somewhat restricted since the arms only move right and left when pulled with a rope. This particular model is shown in various exhibitions around the world and the Tadei’s research results are published in the book, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Robots.


Leonardo designed this fortress with the idea of rendering it safe from the attack. The elaborate shape is innovative and presumably could have been an effective defence against the impact of deadly artillery projectiles.
The Da Vinci fortress could be considered by many as very modern in its design with its circular towers and the slightly inclined exterior walls designed to absorb attacks from firearms. The lord of the castle lived in the centre of the complex, which, according to original drawings also features a secret underground passage. In addition, the fortress features two levels of concentric walls, the tops of which are rounded, in order to help deflect the impact of cannon fire. Small openings make it possible for those fighting from within to return fire with minimum risk of injury from the outside.


The basic design of the catapult had been in use for hundreds of years before Da Vinci embarked upon improving it. He actually came up with several different models. This particular design uses a double leaf spring to produce an enormous amount of energy in order to propel stone projectiles or incendiary materials over great distances. Loading of the two large leaf springs was accomplished using a hand crank on the side of the catapult.

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