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Foundations of Science

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 751–773 | Cite as

The Vitruvian Man of Leonardo da Vinci as a Representation of an Operational Approach to Knowledge

  • Salvatore MagazùEmail author
  • Nella Coletta
  • Federica Migliardo
Article
  • 139 Downloads

Abstract

The Vitruvian Man of Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most famous and most studied drawings over the world as well as one of the most reproduced ones, e.g. in coins (Italian euros), space suit patches (NASA), books and movies. The aim of the present work is to discuss the Vitruvian Man as a figurative representation of the Leonardo’s scientific method. Our analysis is based on scientific elements both present in the drawing and provided by Leonardo in his approach to this drawing. Our thesis is that the square symbolizes the measurable physical world and that the man inscribed within the square refers to the physics measurement process based on the operational definition of quantities, including the measurement unit system and the quantities conversion factors. Therefore, the measurement process is fundamental for the Leonardo’s approach to the scientific knowledge, albeit, the drawing also suggests that this latter does not correspond with the true knowledge. The circle, which has a different center with respect to the square, symbolizes the truth, to which the man inscribed in the square yearns, without ever achieving it, the truth being reachable only by the man inscribed within the circle.

Keywords

Leonardo da Vinci Science Art Vitruvian Man Scientific method Operational definition 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Salvatore Magazù
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nella Coletta
    • 2
  • Federica Migliardo
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Mathematical and Informatics Sciences, Physical Sciences and Earth SciencesUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly
  2. 2.Interuniversitary Consortium for Applied Physical SciencesMessinaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Chemical, Biological, Pharmaceutical and Environmental SciencesUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly
  4. 4.Laboratoire de Chimie Physique UMR8000Université Paris SudOrsay CedexFrance

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