World-leading research brings genius of Leonardo da Vinci to life

Da Vinci

Academics from the University of Sheffield will bring the genius of Leonardo da Vinci to life through their world-leading research during a series of free talks at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery.

From the physics of fluids and the force of friction to the woodpecker’s tongue and Leonardo as a musician, experts from the University will showcase their expertise and shed new light on the life and work of one of the greatest artists that ever lived.

Twelve remarkable drawings by Leonardo da Vinci drawn from the Royal Collection are currently on display at Museums Sheffield's Millennium Gallery as part of major nationwide exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of the artist's death.

The talks and events to coincide with the exhibition have been organised by the University of Sheffield with Museums Sheffield and will run from Thursday 11 April until Sunday 5 May 2019.

Events led by University of Sheffield researchers include:

  • The Power of Drawing - Simon Chadwick from the University’s School of Architecture will discuss how drawing can be a tool for invention, exploration and discovery and how da Vinci used drawing to test his theories.
  • Leonardo da Vinci and the Physics of Fluids - Dr Elena Marensi from the University’s School of Mathematics will use Leonardo’s sketches to illustrate his most pioneering discoveries in fluid mechanics.
  • Leonardo the Musician - In his day, Leonardo da Vinci was equally celebrated as an artist and a musician. Dr Tim Shephard from the University’s Department of Music will reveal what music meant to da Vinci and how it influenced his visual practice.
  • Leonardo’s Flow Drawings - Professor Stephen Beck, from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, will look at da Vinci’s drawings of flowing water, the artist’s comparisons of them to a girl’s braided hair, and how they relate to modern flow theory, illustrating these ideas through a series of practical flow experiments.
  • Leonardo and the Force of Friction - Professor Rob Dwyer-Joyce, from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, will explain how da Vinci carried out some of the earliest experiments on friction and how his work relates to modern research in the field.
  • Leonardo and the Woodpecker’s Tongue - One of da Vinci’s most intriguing aspirations was to ‘describe the tongue of the woodpecker’. Professor Tim Birkhead from the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences demonstrates da Vinci’s ground-breaking process in an event combining history, science, art and religion.
  • School Children, Pianos, Chicken Nuggets and Breaking a World Record - Dr Candice Majewski, from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, will talk about a da Vinci-inspired world-record breaking attempt which will take place in August 2020 which is seeing school children across the country design mechanical contraptions that allow 88 people to play one piano simultaneously.
  • The ‘Admirable Instrument’: An Exploration of Leonardo’s Fascination with the Heart - Dr William Parker, Clinical Research Fellow in Cardiology at University of Sheffield, will explore da Vinci’s work on the heart through the artist’s drawings and annotations, recreation of his dissections and through ultrasound and MRI imaging.

Greg Oldfield, Head of Public Engagement at the University of Sheffield, said: “We are delighted to be working with Museums Sheffield supporting their fantastic Leonardo da Vinci - A life in Portrait exhibition.

“It is a great opportunity for the University of Sheffield to be involved in running a series of free talks and activities to bring our world-class research to life and relate this to Leonardo da Vinci's discoveries and how they they relate to modern research happening in Sheffield.”

All events are free, but some require booking.

The exhibition - Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing - runs until May 6.

Find out more about the talks

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

​​Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:

Hannah Postles
Public Affairs Manager
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046