Lionardo da Vinci

Flying Machine

Flying Machine 

I find that if this instrument made with a screw 
be well made — that is to say, made of linen of 
which the pores are stopped up with starch — and 
be turned swiftly, the said screw will make its 
spiral in the air and it will rise high! 

The man in the bird rests on an axis a little higher than his centre 
of gravity. c.a. 129 v. a 

A bird is an instrument working according to mathematical law, 
which instrument it is within the capacity of man to reproduce with all 
its movements, but not with a corresponding degree of strength, 
though it is deficient only in the power of maintaining equilibrium. 
We may therefore say that such an instrument constructed by man is 
lacking in nothing except the life of the bird, and this life must needs 
be supplied from that of man. 

The life which resides in the bird's members will without doubt 
better conform to their needs than will that of man which is sepa- 
rated from them, and especially in the almost imperceptible move- 
ments which preserve equilibrium. But since we see that the bird is 
equipped for many obvious varieties of movements, we are able from 
this experience to declare that the most rudimentary of these move- 
ments will be capable of being comprehended by man's understanding; 
and that he will to a great extent be able to provide against the destruc- 
tion of that instrument of which he has himself become the living 
principle and the propeller. c.a. 161 r. a 

[Diagrams of mechanism of flying machine] 

I conclude that the upright position is more useful than face down- 
wards, because the instrument cannot get overturned, and on the other 
hand the habit of long custom requires this. 

493 

 

494 FLYING MACHINE 

And the raising and lowering movement will proceed from the 
lowering and raising of the two legs, and this is of great strength and 
the hands remain free; whereas if it were face downwards it would be 
very difficult for the legs to maintain themselves in the fastenings of 
the thighs. 

And in resting the first impact comes upon the feet, and in rising 
they touch at r S t; and after these have been raised they support the 
machine, and the feet moving up and down lift these feet from the 
ground. 

Q is fastened to the girdle; the feet rest in the stirrups K h; m n come 
beneath the arms behind the shoulders; o represents the position of the 
head; the wing in order to rise and fall revolves and folds . . . the 
same. c.a. 276 v. b 

[With drawings of parts of flying machine] 

Spring of horn or of steel fastened upon wood of willow encased in 
reed. 

The impetus maintains the birds in their flying course during such 
time as the wings do not press the air, and they even rise upwards. 

If the man weighs two hundred pounds and is at n and raises the 
wing with his block, which is a hundred and fifty pounds, when he was 
above the instrument, with power amounting to three hundred pounds 
he would raise himself with two wings. c.a. 307 r. b 

[Drawing of wing of flying machine] 

5 Spring with lock n o is a wire 1 Let a be the first movement, 
that holds the spring, and it is not 2 Undo one and remove. . . . 
straight. Spring of wing. 3 Double canes . . . soaped. . . . 

6 The spring b should be strong, 4 of rag or [skin] of flying fish, 
and the spring a feeble and bend- 
able, so that it may easily be made 

to meet the spring b, and between 
a b let there be a small piece of 
leather, so that it is strong, and 
these springs should be of ox-horn, 
and to make the model you will 
make it with quills. 

7 Take instead of the spring filings of thin and tempered steel, and 

 

FLYING MACHINE 495 

these filings will be of uniform thickness and length between the tics, 
and you will have the springs equal in strength and power of resistance 
if the filings in each are equal in number. c.a. 308 r. a 

[Drawing of wing of flying machine} 
Net. Cane. Paper. 

Try first with sheets from the Chancery. 
Board of fir lashed in below. 
Fustian. Taffeta. Thread. Paper. c.a. 309 v. b 

[Drawing of wing of flying machine] 

For Gianni Antonio di Ma[ . . . ]olo, (Mariolo). 

Not to be made with shutters but united. 1 c.a. 311 v. d 

 

THE NATURE OF THE STAFF WHEN UNTIED AND ITS CORD 

The cord should be of oxhide well greased, and the joints also where 
the play is, or they should be soaped with fine soap. 

The staff should be of stout cane or it may be of various different 
pieces of cane, and of any length you choose since you make it in 
pieces. The springs should be made with bands of iron between the 
joints of each spring, uniform in thickness, number and length, so that 
they may all bend at the same time and not first one and then the 
other; and each spring should of itself have many of these bands of 
iron, of which it is made up. But if you prefer not to use bands of iron 
take strips of cow's horn to make these springs. c.a. 308 v. a 

[With drawing of wing of flying machine] 

It requires less effort to raise the wing than to lower it, for as it is 
being raised the weight of the centre which desires to drop assists it 
considerably. c.a. 317 v. a 

To-morrow morning on the second day of January 1496 I will make 
the thong and the attempt. 

[Drawing — apparently of strip of leather stretched on frame] 
To make the paste, strong vinegar, in which dissolve fish-glue, and 

1 Note referring probably to the construction of a machine for flight as a commission 
for a patron, Gian Antonio di Mariolo, who desired that the wings should be so made 
that they could not be penetrated by the wind. 

 

496 FLYING MACHINE 

with this glue make the paste, and attach your leather and it will be 
good. 1 c.a. 318 v. a 

[With drawing of flying machine] 
The foundation of the movement. c.a. 314 r. b 

[Various diagrams in which figure of man is seen exerting force with 

arms and legs] 

Make it so that the man is held firm above, a b, so that he will not 
be able to go up or down, and will exert his natural force with his arms 
and the same with his legs. 

Close up with boards the large room above, and make the model 
large and high, and you will have space upon the roof above, and it 
will be more suitable in all respects than the Piazza d'ltalia. 

And if you stand upon the roof at the side of the tower the men at 
work upon the cupola will not see you. 

a b produces force estimated at three hundred, and the arms at two 
hundred, which makes five hundred, with great speed of ... . 

The lever one braccio and the movement a half, the counter-lever 
eight braccia, and for the weight of the man I will say four, so that it 
comes to three hundred with the instrument. 2 c.a. 361 v. b 

There is as much pressure exerted by a substance against the air as 
by the air against the substance. 

Observe how the beating of its wings against the air suffices to bear 
up the weight of the eagle in the highly rarefied air which borders on 
the fiery element! Observe also how the air moving over the sea, beaten 
back by the bellying sails, causes the heavily laden ship to glide 
onwards ! 

1 The words (soatta) 'thong' and (corame) 'leather' seem to point to the probability 
that these two sentences refer to the construction and trial of the same instrument, 
probably a flying machine. 

2 On the same page of the manuscript Leonardo has drawn a rough map of Europe 
with names of provinces inserted. Below this the Iberian peninsula is repeated with 
lists of provinces arranged under the three heads: — Spain, France and Germany. It is 
not perhaps entirely fantastic to suppose that these maps and lists of provinces, occurring 
on the same sheet as the foregoing memoranda of the construction of an instrument for 
flight, may have been connected in his mind with possibilities of travel that the invention 
of flying would open up and that the sketches were in intention aviators' maps. The 
reference to the roof at the side of the tower as being out of sight of the men working 
upon the cupola shows that the model was being made in a house not far from the 
Cathedral. 

 

FLYING MACHINE 497 

So that by adducing and expounding the reasons of these things you 
may be able to realise that man when he has great wings attached to 
him, by exerting his strength against the resistance of the air and con- 
quering it, is enabled to subdue it and to raise himself upon it. 

[Sketch — man with parachute'] 

If a man have a tent made of linen of which the apertures have all 
been stopped up, and it be twelve braccia across and twelve in depth, 
he will be able to throw himself down from any great height without 
sustaining any injury. 

[ With drawing of pair of balances in one of which the figure of a man 

is seen raising a wing] 

And if you wish to ascertain what weight will support this wing 
place yourself upon one side of a pair of balances and on the other 
place a corresponding weight so that the two scales are level in the air; 
then if you fasten yourself to the lever where the wing is and cut the 
rope which keeps it up you will see it suddenly fall; and if it required 
two units of time to fall of itself you will cause it to fall in one by 
taking hold of the lever with your hands; and you lend so much 
weight to the opposite arm of the balance that the two become equal 
in respect of that force; and whatever is the weight of the other balance 
so much will support the wing as it flies; and so much the more as it 
presses the air more vigorously. c.a. 381 v. a 

[With drawings] 

a b c causes the part m n to raise itself up quickly in the rising move- 
ment, d e f causes m n to descend rapidly in the falling movement, and 
so the wing performs its function. 

r t lowers the wing by means of the foot, that is by stretching out 
the legs, v s raises the wing by the hand and turns it. 

The way to cause the wing to turn just as it rises or descends. 

Device which causes the wing as it rises to be all pierced through 
and as it falls to be united. And this is due to the fact that as it rises b 
separates from a and d from c and so the air gives place to the rising 
of the wing, and as it falls b returns to a and similarly c to d; and the 
net bound to the canes above makes a good protection, but take care 

 

498 FLYING MACHINE 

that your direction be from a to / so that the landing 1 does not find 
any obstacle. b 73 v. 

[With drawings: section of wing] 

Device so that when the wing rises up it remains pierced through 
and when it falls it is all united. And in order to see this it must be 
looked at from below. 

[Sketch of wing] 

Make the meshes of this net one eighth wide. 

A should be of immature fir wood, light and possessing its bark. 

B should be fustian pasted there with a feather to prevent it from 
coming of? easily. 

C should be starched taffeta, and as a test use thin pasteboard. 

b 74 r. 

With drawing of flying machine 

a twists the wing, b turns it with a lever, c lowers it, d raises it up, 
and the man who controls the machine has his feet at / d; the foot / 
lowers the wings, and the foot d raises them. 

The pivot M should have its centre of gravity out of the perpendicu- 
lar so that the wings as they fall down also fall towards the man's feet; 
for it is this that causes the bird to move forward. 

This machine should be tried over a lake, and you should carry a 
long wineskin as a girdle so that in case you fall you will not be 
drowned. 

It is also necessary that the action of lowering the wings should be 
done by the force of the two feet at the same time, so that you can 
regulate the movement and preserve your equilibrium by lowering one 
wing more rapidly than the other according to need, as you may see 
done by the kite and other birds. Also the downward movement of 
both the feet produces twice as much power as that of one: it is true 
that the movement is proportionately slower. 

The raising is by the force of a spring or if you wish by the hand, 
or by drawing the feet towards you, and this is best for then you will 
have the hands more free. b 74 v. 

1 MS. has Mariua'. 

 

FLYING MACHINE 499 

I With drawing] 

The manner of the rods of the wings. 

How one ought to have the canes strengthened and able to bend by 
means of joints. b 77 v. 

[With drawing — figure of man lying face downward s wording 

machine] 

This can be made with one pair of wings and also with two. 

If you should wish to make it with one, the arms will raise it by 
means of a windlass, and two vigorous kicks with the heels will lower 
it, and this will be useful. 

And if you wish to make it with two pairs, when one leg is extended 
it will lower one pair of wings and at the same time the windlass 
worked by the hands will raise the others, helping also considerably 
those that fall, and by turning the hands first to the right and then to 
the left you will help first the one and then the other. This instrument 
resembles the large one on the opposite page ( b 80 r.) except that in 
this the traction is twisted on the wheel M and goes to the feet. 

In place of the feet you should make a ladder in three parts of three 
poles of fir, light and slender, as is represented here in front, and it 
should be ten braccia in length. b 79 r. 

[With drawing — figure of man lying face downwards working 

machine] 

Under the body between the pit and the fork of the throat should 
be a chamois skin and put it there with the head and the feet. 

Hold a windlass with the hands and with feet and hands together 
you will exert a force equal to four hundred pounds, and it will be as 
rapid as the movement of the heels. b 79 v. 

[With drawing — figure of man in vertical position working machine] 
This man exerts with his head a force that is equal to two hundred 

pounds, and with his hands a force of two hundred pounds, and this 

is what the man weighs. 

The movement of the wings will be crosswise after the manner of 

the gait of the horse. 
So for this reason I maintain that this method is better than any 

orher. 

 

500 FLYING MACHINE 

Ladder for ascending and descending; let it be twelve braccia high, 
and let the span of the wings be forty braccia, and their elevation eight 
braccia, and the body from stern to prow twenty braccia and its height 
five braccia and let the outside cover be all of cane and cloth, b 80 r. 

[With drawing of screw revolving round vertical axis] 

Let the outer extremity of the screw be of steel wire as thick as a 
cord, and from the circumference to the centre let it be eight braccia. 

I find that if this instrument made with a screw be well made — that 
is to say, made of linen of which the pores are stopped up with starch — 
and be turned swiftly, the said screw will make its spiral in the air and 
it will rise high. 

Take the example of a wide and thin ruler whirled very rapidly in 
the air, you will see that your arm will be guided by the line of the 
edge of the said flat surface. 

The framework of the above-mentioned linen should be of long stout 
cane. You may make a small model of pasteboard, of which the axis 
is formed of fine steel wire, bent by force, and as it is released it will 
turn the screw. b 83 v. 

[With drawing] 

If you wish to see a real test of the wings make them of pasteboard 
covered by net, and make the rods of cane, the wing being at least 
twenty braccia in length and breadth, and fix it over a plank of a 
weight of two hundred pounds, and make in the manner represented 
above 1 a force that is rapid; and if the plank of two hundred pounds 
is raised up before the wing is lowered the test is satisfactory, but see 
that the force works rapidly, and if the aforesaid result does not follow 
do not lose any more time. 

If by reason of its nature this wing ought to fall in four spaces of 
time and you by your mechanism cause it to fall in two the result will 
be that the plank of two hundred pounds will be raised up. 

You know that if you find yourself standing in deep water holding 
your arms stretched out and then let them fall naturally the arms will 
proceed to fall as far as the thighs and the man will remain in the first 
position. 

But if you make the arms which would naturally fall in four spaces 

1 In the drawing the figure of a man is seen working a lever. 

 

FLYING MACHINE 501 

of time fall in two then know that the man will quit his position and 
moving violently will take up a fresh position on the surface of the 

 

water. 

 

And know that if the above-named plank weighs two hundred 
pounds a hundred of these will be borne by the man who holds the 
lever in his hand and a hundred will be carried upon the air by the 
medium of the wing. b 88 v. 

Make the ladders curved to correspond with the body. 

When the foot of the ladder a touches the ground it cannot give 
a blow to cause injury to the instrument because it is a cone which 
buries itself and does not find any obstacle at its point, and this is 
perfect. 

Make trial of the actual machine over the water so that if you fall 
you do not do yourself any harm. 

These hooks that are underneath the feet of the ladder act in the 
same way as when one jumps on the points of one's toes for then one 
is not stunned as is the person who jumps upon his heels. 

This is the procedure when you wish to rise from an open plain: 
these ladders serve the same purpose as the legs and you can beat the 
wings while it is rising. Observe the swift, how when it has settled itself 
upon the ground it cannot rise flying because its legs are short. But 
when you have raised yourself, draw up the ladders as I show in the 
second figure above. b 89 r. 

[Artificial wings] 

In constructing wings one should make one cord to bear the strain 
and a looser one in the same position so that if the one breaks under 
the strain the other is in position to serve the same function, h 29 v. 

 

[Artificial wings] 

SHUTTERS IN FLYING MACHINES 

The smaller these shutters the more useful are they. 
And they will be protected by a framework of cane upon which is 
drawn a piece of gauze and as it slants upward the movement of the 

 

502 FLYING MACHINE 

whole is transversal, and such lines of shutters come to open by a slant- 
ing line and consequently the process of rising is not impeded. 

l 57 v. 

HELM OF FLYING MACHINES 

Here the head n is the mover of this helm, that is that when n goes 
towards b the helm becomes widened, and when it goes in the opposite 
direction the tail is contracted; and similarly when / is lowered the tail 
is lowered on this side, and so lowering itself on the opposite side it will 
do the same. 

Of necessity in flight at uniform altitude the lowering of the wings 
will be as great as their elevation. l 59 r. 

When the mover of the flying body has power divisible in four 
through its four chief ministering members, it will then be able to 
employ them equally and also unequally and also all equally and all 
unequally, according to the dictates of the various movements of the 
flying body. 

If they are all moved equally the flying body will be of regular 
movement. 

If they are used unequally, as it would be in continuous proportion, 
the flying body will be in circling movement. l 60 v. 

Suppose that here there is a body suspended, which resembles that 
of a bird, and that its tail is twisted to an angle of various different 
degrees; you will be able by means of this to deduce a general rule as 
to the various twists and turns in the movements of birds occasioned 
by the bending of their tails. 

In all the varieties of movements the heaviest part of the thing which 
moves becomes the guide of the movement. l 61 v.