Leonardo da Vinci


Leonardo da Vinci was (and is) a famous Italian artist as well as a physician, and anatomist. He made over 1,500 drawings from cadaver dissections. Included in his studies were muscles of the tongue, the larynx, and the thoracic cavity. Da Vinci’s major anatomical text was Quaderni d’anatomia, completed about the year 1500.

Leonardo’s also performed many scientific experiments that were in advance of his time. By squeezing the lungs of a dead goose, he showed it could produce tones from its larynx. He also described articulation function of the mouth, lips and teeth, and assigned phonetic terms to acoustic signals.

Da Vinci’s theorizing was grounded in ancient times. He subscribed to the theory of ventricular localization and adopted the theory of animal spirits, believing that the spirits traveled across the nerves to the ventricles. He studied the location and anatomy and based on his findings he attributed functions to the separate ventricles that differed from those of Nemesius, a medieval physician. Whereas Nemesius localized the processing of sensation in the lateral ventricles, Leonardo argued that they are located in the middle ventricle because the sensory nerves converged in the midbrain.

Writings about Leonardo da Vinci’s contributions to anatomy and phonetics.

Imperatori, Charles J. (December, 1941) Leonardo da Vinci's contribution to laryngology, rhinology, and phonetics, Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology, 50, 974-994.

MacCurdy, E. (1954). (Ed). The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. NY: G. Braziller.

Panconcelli-Calzia, Giulio (1943) Leonardo als Phonetiker. Hamburg: Heitmann.

Panconelli-Calzia, Giulio (1956) Leonardo's work in phonetics and linguistics. In Baroni et al., Leonardo da Vinci (No. 195), pp. 399-404. New York: Reynal & Company.

Todd, Edwin M. (1983) The neuroanatomy of Leonardo da Vinci. Santa Barbara, CA: Capra.