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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Leonardo da Vinci’s Handwritten Resume (1482)

Leonardo da Vinci (wiki) was born on April 15, 1452 and died on May 2, 1519. He was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of paleontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, his genius epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.

Before he was famous, before he painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, before he invented the helicopter, before he drew the most famous image of man, before he was all of these things, Leonardo was an artificer, an armorer, a maker of things that go ‘boom,’” writes Marc Cendella on his blog about job-searching and recruitment advice. “Like you, he had to put together a resume to get his next gig. So in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote out a letter and a list of his capabilities and sent it off to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.” Having yet to establish his reputation as perhaps the Italian Renaissance’s most respected polymath, Leonardo spelled himself out, in translation, as follows:
Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.
1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.
2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.
3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.
4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.
Giant crossbow (more here)
5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.
6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.
7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.
8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.
9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.
Water lifting devices (larger version)
10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.
11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.
Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.
And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency – to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.
Even the densest fifteenth-century Duke, I wager, could see the use in a man able to make portable bridges, get water out of trenches, destroy rock built upon rock, fling a storm of stones, fortify vessels, pass under rivers, and make everything from “big guns,” catapults, mangonels, and trabocchi to unattackable covered chariots. Though Leonardo understandably concentrates on his wartime engineering skills, he also touches on the range of other disciplines — Renaissance man, remember — he has mastered, like architecture, sculpture, and painting. Perhaps most impressively of all, he rattles off all these points without seeming particularly boastful, a feat seemingly out of the reach of many college graduates today. “You’ll notice he doesn’t recite past achievements,” Cendella adds, “because those are about his achievements, and not about the Duke’s needs.” 

NPR has translated Leonardo's To-Do List.


Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865

From Harper's Weekly of April 29, 1965. this illustration is by Thomas Nast, and represents Nast's Tribute to the fallen president. The illustration shows Columbia, or Lady Liberty, kneeling and weeping over Abraham Lincoln's Coffin. The picture also shows a grieving Union Soldier, contemplating the loss of his commander and chief. Also pictured is a Union Navy man, likewise mourning Abraham Lincoln's death.
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won. 
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people are exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead. 

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) (wiki) ("O Captain! My Captain!," 1st stanza)*

Last known photograph of Abraham Lincoln,
taken by Henry F. Warren on 6 March 1865
Our children will behold his fame,
The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man,
Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame,
New birth of our new soil, the first American. 
~James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) (of President Lincoln, Commemoration Ode, 21 July 1865)

Assassination has never changed the history of the world.**

~Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) (in the House of Commons, 1 May 1865, on Lincoln's assassination) 

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have born the battle and for his widow and for his orphan, to do all that may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. 

~President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) (wiki) (Second inaugural address, 4 March 1865)

Lincoln Assassination - Harper's Weekly Illustration
Although he actually died at 7:30 the following morning, today is the anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) on 14 April 1865, only five days after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Lincoln was very fond of the theater, and that evening, he and Mrs. Lincoln - likely in a celebratory mood because of the end of the Civil War - attended a performance of the comedy, Our American Cousin, by English playwright Tom Taylor at Ford's Theater on 10th Street NW in Washington. There, following the intermission, actor and Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth managed to gain access to the Presidential box through a series of security lapses, and shot Lincoln in the back of head with a small pistol. He then jumped down onto the stage, shouted "Sic semper tynannis!" ("Thus always to tyrants!"), and although breaking his leg in the process, made his escape. Booth was ultimately tracked down and killed on 26 April, and four other conspirators were hanged on 7 July 1865.*** 

The Assassination of President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre
After the Act, wood engraving from Harper's Weekly, April 29, 1865.
At least in the North, the President's death unleashed a paroxysm of grief. Before funeral services in Washington, he lay in state in both the White House and the Capitol, and the train that slowly bore his body to Illinois for burial stopped in 11 cities for additional viewings by the public. He was laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois on 4 May 1865. Perhaps my favorite Lincoln quotation:
"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."
* N.B. Written by Whitman in 1871 in memory of the assassination of President Lincoln.

** Except that this one probably did, at least in the United States... It led to the many excesses of Reconstruction and lasting bitterness between the North and South.

*** Lincoln's assassination was only part of a larger conspiracy which also targeted Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. Johnson's intended attacker lost his nerve, but Seward was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack that same night. 

Here's a brief (5 minute) video on the assassination:


Funeral March for Abraham Lincoln written by Major General John Gross Barnard was performed by the United States Marine Band during the funeral procession from the Executive Mansion to the Capitol on April 19, 1865. This youtube version is played with with period illustrations of the obsequies: 


In 1956, an eyewitness (Samuel Seymour) to the Lincoln assassination appeared on "I've Got a Secret": 



Lincoln's 1858 speech on the meaning of Independence Day: "Let us stick to it then. Let us stand firmly by it then."

Gorgeous remastered and colorized images from the Civil War era, including Lincoln and Mark Twain

Much more at History.com. The rest of the illustrations from the Harper's Weekly issue referenced above are available here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Tuesday links

On April 9, the American Civil War ended with Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses Grant: The Gentleman's Agreement That Ended the Civil War.

We missed Dog Farting Awareness Day yesterday, but this Scientific American's article on the science of dog farts is still worthwhile.

"Nub City" - the Florida town where people cut off their appendages for insurance money.


License-Plate Readers Are Dealt a Blow in Virginia, but Privacy Is Still a Rare Commodity Nationwide.

Declassified: That Time the US Military made Flying Saucers.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the business of drunken online shopping, the etymologies of all 50 state’s names, and blood transfusion history.