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Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519) and reproductive anatomy
  1. Peter M Dunn
  1. Department of Child Health, Southmead Hospital, University of Bristol, Bristol BS10 5NB
  1. Professor Peter Dunn.

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 “Science comes by observation, not by  authority”   Leonardo was born on 15 April 1452, the illegitimate son of Ser Piero, a Florentine lawyer, and Caterina, the maid at an inn in Vinci, a village in the foothills of Albana in Tuscany. Claimed by his father at the age of 4, he grew up in Florence and was apprenticed to the sculptor and painter, Andrea Verrocchio, in 1469. In 1472 he was registered as a master craftsman in the Guild of St Luke. Thus began the career of a man whose intellect and talent have never been surpassed. Artist, scientist, inventor, visionary and philosopher, Leonardo sought to unravel all the mysteries of life and the universe.1-2 He took all knowledge as his provence.

His patrons included Lorenzo de Medici, Ludovico Sforza, Popes Alexander VI and Julius II, and Francis I of France. Working mostly in Florence, Milan, and Rome over the next 45 years, he remained single as well as single-minded in his search for the truth (fig 1). As he wrote: “If you are alone you belong entirely to yourself. If you are accompanied even by one companion you belong only half to yourself, or even less in proportion to the thoughtlessness of his conduct ... Concentration of the mind comes by solitude.”

Figure 1

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519. Self portrait in old age.

Although the Church strictly forbade post mortem dissection, Leonardo determined to study human anatomy, including the relation between structure and function.3 Between 1489 and 1513, often working by candlelight in the crypt of a church, he painstakingly dissected “more than 30 bodies, both of men and women of all ages.” He described how others “...might be deterred by the fear of living in the night hours in the company of these corpses, quartered and flayed …

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