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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Math and the Mona Lisa: The Art and Science of Leonardo da Vinci » User review

Too many branches away from the life and accomplishments of da Vinci

  • Jul 5, 2010
While this book pays tribute to the incredible talent of Leonardo da Vinci, the coverage moves into areas of science that have little connection to what da Vinci did. While da Vinci was very modern (for the times) in his model of the universe and that model was the intellectual forerunner of modern science, it is a flimsy connection between what he did and modern physics. Atalay draws a sequential connection between da Vinci, Galileo, Newton, Einstein and the developers of modern quantum mechanics.
The most important fact stated in the book is that most of da Vinci's notebooks have been lost, although there are references to them. This is both sad and exciting; sad in the case that they be permanently lost yet exciting because there is the possibility that additional notebooks may be found. Even though so much is missing, da Vinci still ranks as one of the greatest artists and greatest experimental and theoretical scientists of all time. One can only imagine the wondrous contents of what has been lost.
I consider Leonardo da Vinci to have been the most talented person of all time; he truly was the dictionary entry depicting the Renaissance man. That opinion tends to sour my view of this book because there are so many branches away from the life of da Vinci. To me, nothing could be more interesting than the description of his life and achievements.

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About the reviewer
Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #76
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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In this readable, if less than compelling, disquisition on the close relationship of art and science, physics professor Atalay uses as his touchstone Leonardo da Vinci, of whom he says in his prologue: "Had [da Vinci] been able to publish the scientific ruminations found in his manuscripts in his own time, our present level of sophistication in science and technology might have been reached one or two centuries earlier." This assertion sets the buoyant tone for the rest of the book. The author marvels at the symmetries to be found in art and the natural world, discussing the Fibonacci series (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8...) and the golden ratio related to it designated by the Greek letterphi(1.618...) with illustrated examples ranging from da Vinci's three portraits of women to the Great Pyramid and the Parthenon. He concedes the existence of asymmetry and dissonance, but chooses not to get into such subjects as chaos theory and fractals that don't fit his harmonious view of the universe. While Atalay makes an agreeable guide, he covers too much ground that will already be familiar to his likely audience.
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ISBN-10: 1588341712
ISBN-13: 978-1588341716
Author: Bulent Atalay
Genre: Arts & Photography
Publisher: Smithsonian Books
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