'Da Vinci's Demons': The real Leonardo was a true genius



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It can be argued that the personification of the term "Renaissance man" was the great Leonardo da Vinci -- artist, scientist, architect, engineer, inventor and, now, TV hero.

His superhuman genius comes to life in Starz's "Da Vinci's Demons," premiering Friday, April 12, and drawn from more than 13,000 pages of his own notes and drawings. If the TV version of the man seems unrealistically brilliant, we're here to remind you of a few of the modern inventions that were based on his ideas from way back in the 15th century. 

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Helicopter 

Leonardo referred to it as the "Helical Air Screw" or simply the "airscrew." Frankly, that doesn't seem like a name that would, well, "fly" today.

Even though the first mass-produced helicopter wasn't successfully built until the 1940s, Leonardo da Vinci sketched such a flying machine in the late 15th century.

The idea was, that with enough rotation, it would be possible to lift off the ground. 

Unfortunately, he never got around to building or testing this creation, but his notes and drawings detail how it would look and operate. 



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Ornithopter 

Yes, it's a mouthful to pronounce. Basically, it means that it was a flying machine with flappable wings. 

When he was in his 30s, da Vinci wanted to take to the air like a bird. 

In 1485, in the observational way that drove many of his creations, he spent a great deal of time studying birds and their movements.

While some manned ornithopters have successfully been built, most ornithopters today are radio controlled and enjoyed by hobbyists.




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Tank

When he was under the patronage of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan in 1487, da Vinci envisioned a safe way for soldiers to move through war zones. 

Eight men could fit inside his early tank design. Manual cranks powered the wheels and an armor-plated turtle-shaped shell deflected enemy fire as the men shot back with 360 degree cannons. 




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Robot 

Some time around 1495, Leonardo created a robot knight adorned in medieval Italian-German armor. 

It operated with a series of pulleys and cables and could sit, stand and move its arms independently.

This was not his only robot invention. He also designed a walking mechanical lion and a spring-powered car, which many experts consider to be the first-ever programmable computer.

Tune into "Da Vinci's Demons" to see the backstory behind many of his inventions and innovative creations.
Photo/Video credit: Starz
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