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Leonardo Da Vinci was not only one of the greatest artists of his time, he was also a great engineer and scientist. Only relatively recently, at the beginning of the 19th century, did we recover fragments of his many scientific writings. A large part of his scientific work was dedicated to understanding the movement, circulation and physical characteristics of water in its different forms: as a gas (water vapour), as mist, as drops, as stagnant or flowing water, as ice, hail and snow. This book aims to make Leonardo Da Vinci's contributions to the science of water accessible to a wider public and to compare his ideas with our present state of knowledge.
With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that many of the things that Leonardo Da Vinci wrote were wrong, while in some cases he built on the false premises of classical authors who preceded him. But what makes Leonardo Da Vinci unique is his scientific approach. He can be regarded as the first hydrologist who formulated hypotheses on the basis of empirical evidence, which he subsequently tried to falsify or test under different conditions. Being at the same time an artist, a philosopher, an engineer and a scientist, he was capable of combining his talents for observation, for capturing images in drawings, for designing instruments to test his hypotheses, and for translating these into causal relationships. On top of that, he tried to translate his theories into quantitative relationships, difficult though this may have been in his time, given the limited means available for hydrological observations. He was probably the first hydrological experimentalist to design and build his own instruments to test his hypotheses.
Although his writings were never formally published, his work, like that of the classical Greek philosophers before him, should be considered as a benchmark in the science of hydrology. With this book, we hope that this knowledge will be brought to the community of hydrological scientists, and to all who have an interest in this great artist, scientist and engineer.