Individuals canonized as “genius” are often thought of as supernaturally gifted, as if touched by the divine. But the religious root of the 14th century Latin word actually means “a guiding spirit,” present for all humans. And by forgetting its original meaning and looking only for people who are born with a quasi-mystical quality, we risk becoming blind to budding geniuses all around us.
True genius results from a rebellious attitude against compartmentalized thinking; it can also appear as a fleeting moment of insight, not necessarily a permanent condition of greatness. These ecumenical definitions are highlighted in the ultimate Renaissance avatar for genius, Leonardo da Vinci, a multi-tasking, ambidextrous polymath who bridged art and engineering.
by Martin Kemp
Emeritus Professor of the History of Art, University of Oxford
The first is that he saw clearly how the design of machines must be informed by the mathematical laws of physics rather than just relying upon practice. For instance, he realised that if the power of an unwinding spring diminished according to a mathematical ratio, any device to compensate for this must be designed in accordance with the mathematics. As such, he invented a series of conical and spiral gears that could be mounted on the axle of a barrel-spring to counteract the unwinding.
(Source: The Conversation, February 2016)
- Excellent Web Gallery of Leonardo's Works
- Check out my old post on Leonardo at Kinkazzo's Kanon: Leonardo da Vinci
- ...And see my page: BECOMING LEONARDO
- ...As also the interesting article by Anne Quito: Our cult of “genius” is blinding us to true genius all around, say Leonardo da Vinci’s biographers