A History of Robotics: Da Vinci's Mechanical Knight
1495Sketches from Leonardo Da Vinci's notebook were rediscovered in 1957 by Carlo Pedretti. These sketches showed detailed plans for a mechanical knight that the renaissance man had planned. The knight which would have been designed sometime around 1495 demonstrated how a machine based on of the anatomical structure of a human being could be built. It is likely that the knight had been designed to move with fluidity in combat. Leonardo Da Vinci had conducted a wide study into human anatomy. The robot knight reflected Da Vinci's knowledge, including proportional distances between joints and using pulleys and cables in the place of muscles. A close examination of the ration of the distance of the knight's limbs it is clear that the knight obeys the Canon of Proportions as described in the Vitruvian Man. The robot knight was capable of standing, sitting, raising its visor and independently maneuvering each of its arms, neck and jaw.
After the rediscovery of the sketches in 1957, further studies were carried out in 1996 by Mark Rosheim in an attempt to learn more about the knight. Information suggests that Da Vinci displayed his "robot" at a celebration hosted by Ludovico Sforza at the court of Milan. There have been several attempts to recreate the robot knight and each has successfully demonstrated that Da Vinci's plans are accurate and the knight works as he had planned. Mark Rosheim went on to construct a complete replica of the knight in 2002, based completely off of the original sketches which he had studied.
In addition to the knight, there is limited evidence, lacking any eyewitness records, which suggests that a mechanical lion was also constructed. G. P. Lomazzo suggests that a Da Vinci constructed a mechanical lion to be presented as a gift to the King of France by Giuliano de’ Medici in Lyon, on July 12th, 1515. This gift may have been a gesture for entertainment or diplomatic purposes. The lion may have been able to walk and present flowers at the end of a performance. Along with inconclusive evidence for the lion's existence it is also extremely unclear how the device would have been designed.
However, in 2009, a mechanical lion was created by a french museum, the Château du Clos Lucé and Parc. Leonardo Da Vinci spent the last three years of his life at the Château, he died May 2, 1519.
A video of the lion can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/xNWE2AdfNuo
This post is part of a series titled The History of Robotics. Each chapter is a year or era in robotics history. To see more check for posts labeled history or use the link bellow to view the next era.
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