Popular Science

How to build a steam-powered cannon invented by Da Vinci

A less deadly version of the Architronito

Da Vinci’s Architronito

MIT

Da Vinci’s Architronito

A selection from Paris Manuscript B, in which Da Vinci sketched his plans for the Architronito

Leonardo da Vinci, best known to modern audiences as an artist and Renaissance man, actually made his living as a military engineer. Da Vinci designed a number of highly original weapons, filling his notebooks with drawings and sketches for devices such as the first flintlock rifle, a 135-foot-wide rock-throwing catapult, and a rapid-firing repeater crossbow. One of his most interesting concepts was a steam-powered cannon.

Da Vinci called this invention the Architronito (which translates to “the thunder of Archimedes) after his inspiration, the Greek scientist Archimedes, who devised a steam-powered weapon to protect his home city of Syracuse from invaders. According to Da Vinci, Archimedes’ weapon used steam power to hurl a large projectile weighing one talent (around 50 pounds or so) with nearly as much velocity and momentum as a modern gunpowder-propelled

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