Course title: STS 102/History 14
Units: 5
Time: Monday and Wednesday, 11.00-12.30am
Place: Building 160, Room 317 (map)
Instructor: Michael John Gorman, tel. 3-6817,
Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 4-6pm (370-211, 723-6817).
by appointment (
Important note on readings
:To access the readings in DjVu format, you will need to download the DjVu plugin. The free download is at

The figure of Leonardo da Vinci has become emblematic of creativity and innovation in Western culture. Every new technology associates itself with Leonardo. Every image of the body recalls what Leonardo saw when he tried to depict, dissect, and understand the nature of humanity. Every artist aspires to be the next Leonardo. Every entrepreneurial venture proclaims, as IBM recently did: "If da Vinci were alive today, he'd be working with us."Why does this Renaissance figure continue to fascinate us? What can we learn about the intersections among science, technology and culture by studying him? This class explores the world of the historical Leonardo, looking at his range of interests and accomplishments in such fields as engineering, painting, architecture, physics, geology, anatomy, and physiology. We will ask ourselves what Leonardo actually knew, how he acquired that knowledge, and where it stood in relation to the activities of other creators and innovators in the late fourteenth through early sixteenth centuries and their legacy for later societies. Fundamentally this course explores the relationship between the society of Renaissance Italy and the work of the man from Vinci: why did this world produce a Leonardo?We will also consider the persistence of the Renaissance in our times by examining the emergence and multiple reinventions of the "myth of Leonardo." This course is designed both for students interested in the history of science and technology and for students interested in the history and art of Renaissance Italy.

Week One: The Problem of Leonardo
September 25: Leonardo: Scientist, Artist or Engineer?
Readings: Leonardo, Notebooks, I, pp. 11-13 (#1-8);
Turner, Inventing Leonardo, pp. 3-52

Week Two: Building the World
September 30: The Society of Renaissance Italy
October 2: Dreaming of Building
Readings: King, Brunelleschi’s Dome; Leonardo, Notebooks, II, pp. 41- 65, 77-99

Week Three: Seeing the World
October 7: The World in a Box
October 9: The Painter’s Eye
Readings: Alberti, On Painting , pp. 33-96; Baxandall, Painting, pp. 29- 108
*Ackerman, "Leonardo’s Eye" (DjVu version, PDF version)

Week Four: Living, Working and Thinking
October 14: Becoming a Painter and Looking for Work
October 16: "Man without Letters"
Readings: Baxandall, Painting, pp. 1-27, 109-153
Leonardo, Notebooks, I, pp. 13(#9)-65, 241-332; II, pp. 1-24, 381-471

*** First paper due: Friday, October 16 (5 pp.) ***

Week Five: Anatomy and Humanity
October 21: Anatomy before Leonardo
October 23: Leonardo and the Human Body
Readings: Leonardo, Notebooks, I, pp. 167-201; II, pp. 105-133
Turner, Inventing Leonardo, pp. 191-201
*Kemp, "Il concetto dell’anima"
*Kemp, "Dissection and Divinity"
*Park, "The Criminal and Saintly Body"

Week Six: Understanding Nature
October 28: Leonardo’s Cosmos
October 30: Leonardo’s Nature
Readings: Leonardo, Notebooks , I, pp. 203-240; II, pp. 137-221, 285-311
Turner, Inventing Leonardo, pp. 173- 190
*Gould, "Upwardly Mobile Fossils"
*Garrard, "Leonardo da Vinci" (PDF)

Week Seven: The Machine of the World
November 4: Renaissance Engineering
November 6: Leonardo’s Machines
Readings: Leonardo, Notebooks , II, pp. 271-282
Turner, Inventing Leonardo, pp. 210- 234
*Galluzzi, "The Career of a Technologist" (PDF)
*Long, "Power, Patronage, and Authorship"

FILM (time and place to be announced) "Ginevra's Story"

Week Eight: The Science of Power
November 11: The Politics of Built Things
November 13: Leonardo’s Ideal City
Readings: Masters, Fortune is a River, pp. 1-21, 75-147, 193-211;
Leonardo, Notebooks, II, pp. 27-37, 223- 270
*Garin, "The Ideal City"

Week Nine: The Legacy of Leonardo
November 18: The Leonardo Myth
November 20: Project work
Readings: Turner, Inventing Leonardo, pp. 53-149; Freud,
Leonardo da Vinci
*Pedretti, "The Angel in the Flesh"

Week Ten: Projects

November 25:Project Work
November 27: No class

*** Final Paper Due: Wed, November 27 at 5:00 pm ***

Week Eleven: Project presentations

December 2: Project presentations, group 1

December 4:Project presentations, group 2


Philosophy of the course
This class is designed to provoke, inspire and (as Leonardo did) occasionally frustrate and exasperate. It should make you want to build, draw, dissect or invent something. And that is exactly what you will do with your group project. We will discuss the process of organizing teams for these projects early in the quarter but this is your opportunity to create something from Leonardo, perhaps realize one of his unfinished fantasies or give us a deeper understanding of a particular idea he had about the natural and built world or help us to look more closely at a specific visual insight that he produced.

Course Requirements
All students will be required to write one five-page paper (30%); one final paper of 10 pages (30%), attend class regularly and participate in discussion(20%); and carry out a final group project (20%) by the end of the quarter.