The Renaissance Mathematicus

Is Leonardo da Vinci a great artist or a great scientist, asks Jonathan Jones on his Guardian On Arts blog and as you might have already guessed from the title the answer is neither, actually. Jones’ question is inspired by the two recent Leonardo exhibitions in London Leonardo as painter at the National Gallery and his astronomical drawings at Windsor. The National Gallery describes him as a great artist whereas the curator at Windsor sees him as a great scientist. Both of them are wrong for the same reason; they, and Jones with his question, are making a category error produced by that evil spirit of historical research presentism.

As my friend and historiographical conscience Rebekah “Becky” Higgitt never tires of pointing out it is incorrect, anachronistic and ahistorical to call anybody a scientist who lived and worked before 1834 when the term was first coined by William Whewell. It…

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Argonaut: someone engaged in a dangerous but potentially rewarding adventure.
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