Although Leonardo da Vinci is mostly known for his artistic abilities, fewer than two-dozen paintings attributed to him exist. His interests were vast and he believed that studying science made him a better artist and therefore he had extensive knowledge in botany, geology, zoology, hydraulics, aeronautics and physics.
Da Vinci was fascinated by the world around him, however much of his creativity was inspired by his immediate surroundings. During the 1500s, while living in Venice, Da Vinci sketched different inventions to be used in the waters surrounding the beautiful city. It was only when his famous Codex Atlanticus was published that his inventions became well known. One of these inventions was scuba diving equipment that he designed to help sabotage the ships used by Turks to invade Venice.
His scuba gear consisted of a leather diving suit with glass goggles and a bag like mask that went over the divers head. The mask had two flexible cane tubes attached by the nose that lead up to a diving bell which enables the opening of the tubes to constantly stay above water, providing an endless supply of air to the diver below.
The mask was also equipped with a valve-operated balloon that could be inflated or deflated to help the diver to sink and resurface. The suit was so well thought out that he included a bottle in the suit for urination so that divers could stay underwater for as long as they needed.
The suit also came equipped with ropes, weapons, sand bag weights and a horn for signaling purposes. However, his scuba suit wasn’t of much use in the war since the troops were driven away by the Venetian navy before his plan for cutting holes in the hulls of enemy ships was brought to action.
An alternate version of the suit also included submersible air bladders, which was the source of inspiration for Jacques Cousteau while inventing modern scuba gear. It was Cousteau’s desire for undersea exploration that lead to him expanding on Da Vinci’s vision. With the help of inventor Émile Gagnan they devised the first aqua-lung model.
Leonardo Da Vinci had unknowingly paved the way for the birth of diving equipment at a time when scuba diving couldn’t even be imagined as possible.