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Was Leonardo da Vinci dyslexic?

Over the next few weeks we will feature biographies of dyslexics who have excelled in a variety of fields. Some will be people you’ve heard of, whilst others you may not know. One or two may even have made careers in writing and words. As well as this, we will look at historical figures who had dyslexia and people with dyslexia who are still living and working today. Are there any famous dyslexics that you would like us to write about? Our first post is about a man who, rather than being an expert in just one discipline, was an expert, and indeed innovator, in many. We are, of course, talking about Leonardo da Vinci!

Who was Leonardo Da Vinci?

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath. A ‘polymath’ is someone whose expertise and knowledge covers a large range of fields – in Leonardo’s case, fields including architecture, engineering, mathematics, painting, and sculpture.

What is Da Vinci most famous for?

Leonardo da Vinci is known for painting Mona Lisa, which is one of the best known paintings of all time – and also one of the most parodied. He also painted The Last Supper. Aside from these two paintings, Leonardo is celebrated for his technological skill and creativity. Although it was only possible for him to construct a few of his designs during his lifetime (such as a machine for testing the strength of wire), he is known for designing many modern-seeming inventions: a helicopter, a tank, and even a calculator! Next to his sketched design of a helicopter, he wrote this description: "A small model can be made of paper with a spring like metal shaft that after having been released, after having been twisted, causes the screw to spin up into the air."

How do we know if Da Vinci was dyslexic?

Although there is no way of truly knowing if Leonardo was dyslexic, many researchers have suggested that he may have been. One indication is his use of mirror writing, which is a skill shared by many left-handed dyslexic people. Many are often not even conscious of writing in this way. In addition to this, his spelling was often quite irregular, but his illustrations were extremely precise. Some researchers believe that Leonardo’s artistic success was because of dyslexia: In 2010, psychologists at Middlesex University discovered links between dyslexia and spacial awareness. Dr Nicola Brunswick, a Senior Lecturer in psychology, said “…many dyslexic people prefer to work out problems by thinking and doing rather than by speaking; this could help dyslexic men develop the kind of visual skills they need to succeed in the artistic and creative worlds”. You can read more about this research here.

Who are some other famous dyslexics?

Other famous artists with dyslexia are Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. Other famous inventors and scientists with dyslexia are Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison. A full list can be found here. Do you have dyslexia? How has it affected your career? Do you see it as a gift or a hindrance?

Avani Shah

20 May 2013
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