Harvard Book Store welcomes celebrated writer and journalist WALTER ISAACSON—author of the acclaimed bestsellers Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin—for a discussion of his latest biography, Leonardo da Vinci. This event is co-sponsored by Mass Humanities.
About Leonardo da Vinci
He was history’s most creative genius. What secrets can he teach us?
Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy.
He produced the two most famous paintings in history, The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. But in his own mind, he was just as much a man of science and technology. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history’s most creative genius.
His creativity, like that of other great innovators, came from having wide-ranging passions. He peeled flesh off the faces of cadavers, drew the muscles that move the lips, and then painted history’s most memorable smile. He explored the math of optics, showed how light rays strike the cornea, and produced illusions of changing perspectives in The Last Supper. Isaacson also describes how Leonardo’s lifelong enthusiasm for staging theatrical productions informed his paintings and inventions.
Leonardo’s delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His life should remind us of the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it—to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different.
"To read this magnificent biography of Leonardo da Vinci is to take a tour through the life and works of one of the most extraordinary human beings of all time and in the company of the most engaging, informed, and insightful guide imaginable. Walter Isaacson is at once a true scholar and a spellbinding writer. And what a wealth of lessons are to be learned in these pages—about the essential role of curiosity and the ability to observe closely, as just two examples. Bravo Walter Isaacson once again." —David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Wright Brothers and 1776
"Majestic. . . Isaacson takes on another complex, giant figure and transforms him into someone we can recognize. . . Totally enthralling, masterful, and passionate." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Illuminating. . . This is a monumental tribute to a titanic figure." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Co-Sponsored by Mass Humanities
Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.
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Featured event books will be for sale at the event for 20% off. Thank you for supporting this author series with your purchases.