Leonardo da Vinci: Book summary and reviews of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Leonardo da Vinci

by Walter Isaacson

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2017
    624 pages
    Genre: Biographies/Memoirs

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Book Summary

He was history's most creative genius. What secrets can he teach us? The author of the acclaimed bestsellers Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin brings Leonardo da Vinci to life in this exciting new biography.

Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo's astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo's genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy.

He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and technology. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history's most creative genius.

His creativity, like that of other great innovators, came from having wide-ranging passions. He peeled flesh off the faces of cadavers, drew the muscles that move the lips, and then painted history's most memorable smile. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. Isaacson also describes how Leonardo's lifelong enthusiasm for staging theatrical productions informed his paintings and inventions.

Leonardo's delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His life should remind us of the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it - to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different.

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Majestic...Isaacson takes on another complex, giant figure and transforms him into someone we can recognize ...Enthralling, masterful, and passionate." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. A monumental tribute to a titanic figure." - Publishers Weekly

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Author Information

Walter Isaacson Author Biography

Photo: Mary Pfaff

Walter Isaacson was born on May 20, 1952 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  After graduating from New Orleans' Isidore Newman School he spent a brief time at Deep Springs College before attending Harvard, graduating with a BA in history and literature.  From there he went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, gaining an MA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. 

He began his journalism career at The Sunday Times (UK) and then at the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  He joined TIME Magazine in 1978 and served as a political correspondent, national editor, and editor of new media before becoming the magazine's fourteenth managing editor in 1996.

He became Chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and in 2003 became president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, an international ...

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