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One sunny November afternoon, we set up shop outside the Bookstore to query
innocent passersby, aiming to investigate the question:
What is the Vitruvian Man today, at Stanford?
Our sample, though small (n=6), does provide some interesting insight into this question.
In some ways, our results were surprising. Of the 6 interviewed, 5 knew immediately and certainly that the Vitruvian Man was by Leonardo da Vinci.
Most knew (or, at least, were able to guess) that it is as a study of the
proportions of man / the mathematical nature of the human figure.
Interestingly, the two older people we interviewed, a Stanford Alum visiting for Big Game and a professor of Ethics from the University of Chicago, both related the Vitruvian Man to Christianity. "I'm sure some of the Christian mystics have grabbed it and run with it", commented Hal, a Stanford alum. The younger interviewees had no such religious interpretations, preferring to stick with geometry.
Participants' responses were, overall, accurate, and did not seem particularly
biased by the influence of the media. For instance, nobody mentioned that
the Vitruvian Man represented medicine, athleticism, or creation. However,
at the same time, only one respondent hinted that architecture had anything
to do with the drawing. The following table gives an overview of the responses:
|Leonardo da Vinci||
|Mathematics / Geometry||
|Spoofed / used on novelty items||