Leonardo Da Vinci -When Art meets Medicine


portrait“Science comes by observation, not by authority” Leonardo Da Vinci

Presumed Self-portrait

Leonardo Da Vinci – 1452- 1519


Leonardo Da Vinci : Superficial anatomy of the shoulder and neck (recto) –  1510  image courtesy: wikimedia-commons
Image Courtesy – wikimedia commons

Leonardo Da Vinci,  son of Caterina, a peasant girl and Ser Piero da Vinci, a Florentine notary, is one of the most amazing men who have ever lived. He is considered to be the greatest geniuses of the Italian renaissance. Not only was he a great painter, whose pictures the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” are among the most famous in the world, but also a sculptor, an architect, a poet and a composer music.

He was a genius of another kind too, for he was a pioneer in science, he studied mathematics and engineering and his ideas and the discoveries he made in work were hundreds of years in advance of his time.

His studies of human anatomy was based on meticulous dissection and showed great knowledge which was far superior to his contemporaries in medical profession.

According to Dr Kenneth D Keele’s strong words -” thus in anatomy as in so many aspects of life’s work, Leonardo was a man who awoke too early in the dawn of the Scientific Renaissance whilst others still slept”

He is an inspiration to many doctors and several interesting medical articles have been written analysing his exquisite  illustrations of human anatomy.

To his remarkable knowledge was added his skill unique skill in recording his findings in paper. These are not only important scientific diagrams but also superb works of art.

The studies of the skeleton and muscles completed between 1508 and 1510 are among his most impressive and beautiful drawings. These beautiful illustrations emphasize the fact that a good diagram will tell more than a thousand words.

The Spine (1508 -10) shows the beautiful natural curve of the vertebral  column, with the vertebrae of each part correctly numbered for the first time.

His drawing “Superficial muscles and veins of  arms shows also the superficial veins of the chest and abdomen.


Leonardo Da Vinci : Studies of Embryos by Leonardo da Vinci (Pen over red chalk 1510-1512) Image courtesy : wikimedia-commons

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519) and reproductive anatomy: Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 1997;77: Peter M Dunn – 
He was the first to observe and comment on the fetal membranes—the chorion,  amnion, and allantois.  His drawing of a fetus in the womb is altogether remarkable and was not bettered for more than two centuries. Of that drawing, he wrote:

“In the case of this child the heart does not beat and it does not breathe because it lies continually in water. And if it were to breathe it would be drowned, and breathing is not necessary to it because it receives life and is nourished from the life and food of the mother.

The navel is the gate from which our body is formed by means of the umbilical vein… This umbilical vein is the origin of all the veins of the creature that is produced in the matrix, and it does not take its origin in any vein of the pregnant woman, because each of these veins is entirely separated and divided from the veins of the pregnant woman, and the veins and arteries are found together in pairs; and it is extremely rare for one to be found without the other being in company with it, and the artery is almost always found above the vein because the blood of the artery is the passage for the vital spirit, and the blood of the veins is that which nourishes the creature…. (the unborn child) is nourished from the same cause as the other members of the mother, and its vital powers are derived from the air which is the common living principle of the human race and other living things.”


Leonardo da Vinci: The Proportions of the Human Figure (Vitruvian Man) – (1490; Pen, ink and watercolour over metalpoint)Image courtesy: wikimedia-commons



Leonardo Da Vinci : Anatomy of the Neck – 1515 Image Courtesy – wikimedia-commons

In the course of dissection of the skull and brain Leonardo made many discoveries like maxillary and frontal sinuses (1489).

He was interested in ophthalmology and was probably first to draw the optic chiasma and to demonstrate the path of vision from the back of the eyeball to the base of the brain as in the “Optic Chiasma and cranial nerves”  (1506 -1508).

Leonardo Da Vinci described eye as the “window of the soul.”


Leonardo Da Vinci : Studies of human skull ( Pen, ink and black chalk on paper – 1489) Image Courtesy – wikimedia-commons 


In the 1490s, Leonardo Da Vinci began to investigate the heart and its work. This sketch was part of his study of the human anatomy and the circulation system. Image Courtesy – wikimedia-commons


Leonardo Da Vinci : Study on the proportions of head and eyes – pen and ink – second half of 15th century. Image Courtesy – wikimedia-commons


Leonardo da Vinci the anatomist” from McMurrich. Image Courtesy – wikimedia-commons


The Principle Organs and Vascular and Urino-Genital Systems of a Woman  (c. 1507) is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. Image Courtesy – wikimedia commons


View of a Skull (c. 1489) is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci   Image Courtesy – wikimedia commons


Leonardo da Vinci, Drawing of the comparative anatomy of the legs of a man and a dog. Image Courtesy – wikimedia commons

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519) and reproductive anatomy: Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 1997;77: Peter M Dunn 
He believed strongly in health care. His instructions have a remarkably modern ring:

If you would keep healthy, follow this regimen: do not eat unless you feel inclined, and sup lightly; chew well, and let what you take be well cooked and simple. He who takes medicine does himself harm; do not give way to anger and avoid close air; hold yourself upright when you rise from table and do not let yourself sleep at midday. Be temperate with wine, take a little frequently, but not at other than the proper meal-times, not on an empty stomach; neither protract nor delay the (visit to) the privy. When you take exercise let it be moderate. Do not remain with the belly recumbent and the head lowered, and see that you are well covered at night. Rest your head and keep your mind cheerful; shun wantonness, and pay attention to diet.

“As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.” Leonardo da Vinci



Human body has 7 Tails. Did you know ?




1) Tail of the Pancreas :

Tail of the Pancreas is narrow and usually lies in contact with the inferior part of the gastric surface of the spleen. It is present within the two layers of the splenorenal ligament together with the splenic vessels, to which it is closely related.


2) Tail of the Epididymis:

Epididymis consist of a tortuous canal which forms the first part of the efferent route from the testis. It consists of central region, or body, a superior enlarged head, and an inferior pointed end, the tail. The lateral surfaces of the head and tail of epididymis are covered by the tunica vaginalis and hence free.


3) Axillary Tail of the Breast (Tail of Spence) :

The Superolateral part of Breast is prolonged upwards and laterally towards the axilla, forming the axillary tail, which pass through the deep fascia to lie in close relationship to the pectoral group of axillary lymph nodes.


4) Tail of the Helix :

The cartilage of auricle of the external ear consists of a single piece of elastic fibrocartilage. This cartilage is absent from the lobule and between tragus and beginning of helix. Anteriorly, where the helix bends upwards, there is a small cartilaginous projection – spine of the helix. At its other extremity the cartilage is extended inferiorly as the tail of the helix. The tail of the helix is separated from the antihelix by the fissure antitragohelicina.


5) Tail of the Caudate Nucleus :

The caudate nucleus is an arcuate mass of gray matter which has a head, body and tail. The anterosuperior end is massive and termed head. At the interventricular foramen this narrows into body of the nucleus which tapers imperceptibly into the tail.


6) Tail of the Dentate Gyrus :

Dentate gyrus is a crenated strip of cortex. Anteriorly, the dentate gyrus is continued into the notch of the uncus, where it makes a sharp bend medially across the central part of its inferior surface. This transverse part is smooth and featureless, being termed the tail of the dentate gyrus (band of Giacomini), and it becomes indistinguishable on the medial aspect of the uncus.


7) Tailbone (Coccyx) –

Tailbone ( coccyx) is the terminal segment of the spine. It is a triangular bone that consists usually 3 to 5 rudimentary vertebrae fused together . The lower part of the filum terminale, also known as coccygeal ligament, inserts to the first segment. The coccyx is bordered anteriorly by the levator ani muscle and the sacrococcygeal ligament.


“A dog can express more with his tail in minutes than his owner can express with his tongue in hours.”—Anonymous