Code of Birds Flight

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Studies on the flight behavior of birds

The Codex on the Flight of Birds ( Italian Codice sul volo degli uccelli , also known as Codex Turin ) is a bound collection of sheets with scientific writings, notes, sketches and drawings by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).


The codex contains 18 sheets of approximately 15 cm × 21 cm. The work is dated around 1505. Leonardo wrote the text in his characteristic mirror writing and provided it with numerous drawings and sketches.

The manuscript begins with investigations into the flight behavior of birds . From this, Leonardo developed sketches and plans for the construction of aircraft.

According to various literature, Leonardo constructed a number of these devices and tried to launch them from the slopes of Monte Ceceri near Fiesole , in the northeast of Florence . The flight attempts failed because the performance of the human muscles is not sufficient to generate the necessary lift for the weight of the person. Leonardo noted that his assistant Tommaso Masini broke a leg or a few ribs during the attempts. Nevertheless, Leonardo da Vinci is often cited as the historical founder of bionics , as he analyzed the flight of birds and tried to transfer his findings to flying machines.

The author Matthias Eckoldt opposes these traditions. According to him, there is just as little to read in the code of a built flight instrument as of an attempted flight or the injuries mentioned.

The application and documentation of empirical - scientific methods brought usable knowledge and suggestions for empirical flight research for the first time. For example, in Leonardo's notes, the change in shape of the bird's wing is correctly mentioned for the first time, the feathers of which form a closed surface on the downward stroke, but open on the upward movement so as not to impede the upward stroke.


Little is known about the early history of the Codex. After Leonardo da Vinci's death in 1519, all of his notes passed into the hands of his pupil Francesco Melzi (around 1491/92 - around 1570). His heirs dissolved Leonardo's estate. The manuscripts were sold, even as individual sheets, and the valuable material was scattered. Today the work is located in the Biblioteca Reale in Turin , Italy .


  • Emma Dickens (Ed.): The da Vinci Universe - The Notebooks of Leonardo . Ullstein Verlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-548-36874-3 , from 2007: ISBN 978-3-548-36874-0 .
  • Meinrad Maria Grewenig: Leonardo da Vinci - artist, inventor, scientist . Historical Museum of the Palatinate, Speyer 1995.
  • Theodor Lücke (Ed.): Leonardo da Vinci: Diaries and records . 3rd edition, Paul List Verlag, Leipzig 1953.
  • Martin Kemp : Leonardo . C. H. Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 978-3-406-53462-1 .
  • Charles Nicholl : Leonardo da Vinci - The biography . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 978-3-10-052405-8 .
  • Herbert Oertel: Bio flow mechanics . Vieweg and Teubner, Wiesbaden 2008, ISBN 978-3-8348-0205-7 .
  • Carlo Pedretti : Leonardo da Vinci on Painting . University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles 1964 ( digitized ).
  • Jean Paul Richter (Ed.): The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci . 2 volumes, Dover Publications Inc., Dover 1970, Volume 1: ISBN 0-486-22572-0 , Volume 2: ISBN 0-486-22573-9 . Online version of the first edition in 1883 at , English.
  • Bernd Vollmerhaus: Textbook of the anatomy of domestic animals . 3rd edition, MVS Medizinverlage, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 978-3-8304-4153-3 .

Web links

Commons : Codex on Bird Flight  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Vollmerhaus, p. 392
  2. a b c Oertel, p. 27
  3. a b Grewenich, p. 169
  4. Liana Bortolon: The life, times and art of Leonardo . Crescent Books, New York 1965, p. 62
  5. ^ Woldemar von Seidlitz: Leonardo da Vinci - the turning point of the Renaissance . Volume 2, Julius Bard, Berlin 1909, p. 234