Learning from Da Vinci’s To-Do List

I stumbled on an old post on open culture which reprints one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s to-do lists and rightly points out that it’s probably way more interesting that your own! The excerpt from the list includes:

  • [Calculate] the measurement of Milan and Suburbs
  • [Find] a book that treats of Milan and its churches, which is to be had at the stationer’s on the way to Cordusio
  • [Discover] the measurement of Corte Vecchio
  • [Discover] the measurement of the castello
  • Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle
  • Get Messer Fazio to show you about proportion.
  • Get the Brera Friar to show you De Ponderibus (a medieval text on mechanics)
  • [Talk to] Giannino, the Bombardier, re. the means by which the tower of Ferrara is walled without loopholes
  • Ask Benedetto Potinari by what means they go on ice in Flanders
  • Draw Milan
  • Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night.
  • [Examine] the Crossbow of Mastro Giannetto
  • Find a master of hydraulics and get him to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill in the Lombard manner
  • [Ask about] the measurement of the sun promised me by Maestro Giovanni Francese
  • Try to get Vitolone, which is in the Library at Pavia, which deals with the mathematic.
  • (See a more annotated list and commentary on the original post.)

What’s most striking about the list is that for someone in his mid 40s at the time, how many of the items are simply about learning. Not just learning in fact, but learning from other people.

It’s shameful for me to think about most of my own to-do lists in this light. I’m lucky if one or two items on there have something to do with learning something new.

I’m thinking that adding some “stuff to learn” and “stuff to learn from …” slots to to-do lists in the future would be a worthwhile switch to make!

In the meantime the British Library has also just published 500+ pages of Da Vinci’s notebooks on line in digital form. A good place to start some of that learning! Open culture covers it here.

Image from the British Library Codex Scan referenced above.

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