A group of scientists found that Leonardo da Vinci’s understanding of gravity, while not entirely accurate, was ahead of his time by centuries.
In an article published in the journal Leonardo, the scientists drew on a new look at da Vinci’s early sixteenth-century pencil sketches and pointed out that the famous Italian artist and inventor was experimenting to prove that gravity is a form of acceleration, and that he also formulated the gravitational constant to within 97% accuracy, according to scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the US.
According to the study, Da Vinci, who lived from 1452 to 1519, understood gravity long before the English mathematician Isaac Newton made this discovery in the late seventeenth century.
It wasn’t until 1604 that Galileo Galilei theorized that the distance traveled by a falling body was proportional to the square of elapsed time, and Newton didn’t work out the law of gravity until the late seventeenth century, describing how things attract each other.
These latest discoveries show that da Vinci was ahead of his time in learning these concepts.
Engineers from the California Institute of Technology found that understanding Leonardo da Vinci of gravity was centuries ahead of his time. He designed experiments to demonstrate that gravity is a form of acceleration and he modeled the gravitational constant with about 97% accuracy https://t.co/Oty2NySTMFrice.twitter.com/d67bFbvyCu
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) February 14, 2023
“Engineers at Caltech have discovered that Leonardo da Vinci’s understanding of gravity, while not entirely accurate, is centuries ahead of his time,” the university said in a press release.
In an experiment described in a collection of articles written by da Vinci covering science, art, and personal topics called The Arundel Code, Caltech professor Murray Gharib discovered a series of drawings that depict triangles created by sand-like particles falling from the bank.
“What caught my attention was that he wrote an equation of motion (Equatione di Moti) for the hypotenuse of one of his striated triangles, which was a right isosceles triangle,” Gharib, the paper’s lead author, said in a statement. “It became interesting for me to see what Leonardo meant by this phrase.”
The scientists then worked on translating da Vinci’s Italian notes written in his famous letter, which uses the “left mirror” technique, reading from right to left.
They found that the manuscript described an experiment in which a jar of water was driven along a straight path parallel to the ground, pushing out either water or a granular material along the way, most likely sand.
Scientists noted that Da Vinci made it clear in his observations that water or sand would not fall at a constant rate, but would accelerate under the influence of gravity, which was far ahead of his time.
The Italian scientist also said that matter stopped accelerating horizontally because the ejector no longer acts on it, and that “acceleration is completely reduced due to gravity.”
He described in an experiment that if the jar moves at a constant speed, the line resulting from the fall of the substance is vertical, and therefore no triangle is formed.
If the jar is accelerating at a constant speed, da Vinci concluded that the line resulting from the collection of falling materials would form a straight but oblique line, which in turn would form a triangle.
In a key diagram, da Vinci noted that if the motion of the slinger were accelerated at the same rate as the acceleration of gravity of the falling matter, he would create an equilateral triangle, shaded in the note as “de Moti’s equation” or “(equivalent) equation of motion” .
Scientists have said that one of the main hurdles da Vinci faced was the limited tools of his time to accurately measure the time of falling objects.
Dr. Gharib added: “We don’t know if da Vinci did more experiments or went into more depth on the subject. The fact that he tried to solve this problem in this way at the beginning of the sixteenth century shows how advanced his thinking was. “