The practice of making left-handers
write right-handed dates back to at least the mid-1400s, when a
famous left-handed inventor, Leonardo da Vinci, was temporarily
forced to write right-handed by his teachers. I guess Dad could have
taught us how to tie our ties "right" by using a mirror, which is
what you would need to read da Vinci's notes.
When Leonardo (pronounced lay-uh-NAR-doh)
recorded his inventions and discoveries in his notebooks, he wrote
backward, from right to left. Some people believe that he did this
in order to prevent people from copying his ideas back in the day
before there were patents to protect his inventions, but that
explanation is sketchy at best because his writings could easily be
deciphered with a mirror. His reason for writing backward is not
Let's review a few well-known
inventions, along with the name of the inventor who designed them
and the year:
But all of these inventions were
originally conceived hundreds of years earlier.
Now let's try it again … with the
correct answers for the original inventor:
Some of Leonardo da Vinci's designs
were improvements to ideas that had existed earlier, such as the
scissors, while his early designs for a flying machine depended on a
bird's motions rather than an engine. His final design for a
helicopter was eventually shown to Igor Sikorsky, the inventor of
the modern helicopter, and it is believed that this drawing inspired
Sikorsky to study helicopter design.
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second column in this article]
Leonardo, one of the Renaissance
period's greatest minds, was a painter, architect, musician,
sculptor, engineer, scientist and inventor. Born in Vinci, Italy,
near Florence, in 1452 as an illegitimate child, he's one of the
most proficient left-handed inventors in history, along with Ben
Franklin. He painted the famous "Last Supper" and the "Mona Lisa,"
which I've seen up close at the Louvre in Paris. It was by far the
most popular exhibit in the Louvre that day.
Leonardo was a visionary who saw
possibilities centuries before others saw them. Some of his
inventions required the use of components that had not even been
invented yet, such as his design for a rocket that required an
engine that would not be invented until four centuries later.
When he died, he left notebooks of his
ideas and drawings to a friend and student named Francesco, who
later willed them to his son. Francesco's son didn't have any
interest in Leonardo's works, and he was careless in preserving
them; he would even sell many of them to the first available buyers.
For as much as is known about Leonardo da Vinci, there is much more
that would be known about him if his works had been better preserved
after he died.
Some of Leonardo's sculptures and
paintings were destroyed in subsequent wars and conflicts, which is
kind of ironic because he had designed several machines used in war,
including machine guns, assault tanks and submarines, but he was a
peaceful man who detested war. He once designed a tank in which the
front and rear wheels moved in opposite directions. Unlikely that a
person of Leonardo's abilities would make such an obvious mistake,
it makes you wonder whether he designed it with such a flaw so that
it wouldn't work, or so that enemies couldn't use it against his
Da Vinci, a
giant of the Renaissance, a rival of Michelangelo and a contemporary
of Rafael, was a man ahead of his time. A few hundred years ahead of
his time, to be exact.
Paul Niemann is a contributing
author to Inventors' Digest magazine, and he also runs
building websites for inventors. He can be reached at
Paul Niemann 2003
column in LDN:
which invention saved former President Bush's life"