Decoding Da Vinci "The ability to see patterns across nature is actually what makes the Mona Lisa smile," historian Walter Isaacson told us, reflecting on da Vinci's ability to wed art and science.

We celebrated the Italian polymath's legacy in honor of the 500th anniversary of his death.

Want to support 1A? Give to your local public radio station and subscribe to this podcast. Have questions? Find us on Twitter @1A.
NPR logo

Decoding Da Vinci

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/719666477/719670045" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Decoding Da Vinci

1A

Decoding Da Vinci

Decoding Da Vinci

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/719666477/719670045" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Circa 1510, The Italian painter, sculptor, architect and engineer Leonardo da Vinci, (1452 - 1519). Original Artwork: Engraving by J Posselwhite after an engraving by Raphael Morghen, (1758 - 1833), after a self-portrait by da Vinci. Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

There's a global celebration happening this month with events that honor the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci. May marks the 500th year of his death, and it's an opportunity to reflect on how the artist and inventor changed our culture.

Here's what historian Walter Isaacson told Forbes about da Vinci in 2017:

Leonardo da Vinci is history's ultimate example of combining art and science. That's what made him history's greatest genius. He peeled the skin off the faces of cadavers, traced every muscle and nerve that moved the lips, and that informed his creation of the world's most memorable smile, that of the Mona Lisa. He was a great anatomist and engineer and theater producer and artist. He wanted to learn everything that was knowable about our cosmos, including how we fit into it.

We spoke with Isaacson about da Vinci's legacy.