Qualitative visualization – Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci

Five hundred years ago, by careful observation of the movement of water such as a flow past a planar obstruction and a water fall Leonardo da Vinci was able to detect and extract general features of the flow patterns and sketch them in his drawings in such a way that these features could easily be understood by others. In addition, he described his observations in his notes.

Top: Flow behind obstacle
Bottom: Water fall
ca. 1510 – 1513, (from Royal Collection Trust, London, UK)

More information about these drawings and Leonardo's notes is given at

Leonardo did not only study fundamental flow phenomena, but in particular flow phenomena of engineering interest.

The Museo Nazionale Scienza e Technologica Leonardo da Vinci, Milano, Italy, http://www.museoscienza.org/ provides general information on Leonardo da Vinci at http://www.museoscienza.org/leonardo/ and in particular illustrated documents in Italian language about his studies of water flows

including topics such as:

These examples of Leonardo’s studies of the observation of flows of fundamental and of engineering interest underline, which important step at the understanding of complex flow phenomena has been made after it became possible to extract the main features of unsteady flow patterns, to sketch them in an easily comprehensible way, accompanied by written explanatory notes. The path had been paved to communicate attained knowledge archived in non-volatile form to others and thus, by sharing this knowledge, to be able to continuously expand it.


Contents provided by Juergen Kompenhans, 20171012