Lovin' the Loire

Leonardo the autodidact

Unable to attend school because he was an illegitmate child, Leonardo is one of the world’s most famous self-taught geniuses. He actually wore his lack of schooling as a badge of honor — calling himself an uomo senza lettere, a man without letters. His Italian was laced with the local dialect, his spelling was flawed, and he struggled to teach himself Latin later in life. It is unlikely that any books apart from the Bible were available in Vinci. The printing press having been only recently invented, it had not yet arrived in the region, and books were expensive. Once his father found him a place at the Florence studio of Andrea del Verrochio in 1466 when he was 14, Leonardo began making up lost tine by learning the basics.

“Science is the captain, experimentation the footsoldier”

In his case, the need to teach himself was probably a blessing in disguise. In the absence of formal schooling he became a master of observation, a champion of the scientific approach: observe, analyze, deduct, experiment. “Science is the captain, experimentation the footsoldier.” Curiosity personified, he would ask himself things like: “Why is the fish in the water swifter than the bird in the air when it should be the contrary since water is heavier and thicker than air?”