The Heart of Leonardo

The heart of leonardoBy

  • Francis C. Wells, Department of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery, Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, United Kingdom

The dynamic nature of heart action and the ever changing demands on its output and power make it an organ that can only be understood by integrating form with function at every level. Our contemporary understanding of the human heart and its workings is at the cutting edge of modern medical and biological research but, even in the current era of advanced molecular biology, mathematics and engineering, we still struggle to fully decipher the complexities of the normal and diseased heart.

Leonardo’s heart studies represent the pinnacle of his anatomical endeavours. In his work on the heart, his use of ingenious diagrams as well as detailed representational drawings is cleverly combined with carefully crafted verbal descriptions of complicated physiological concepts. Some of his thinking, developed through drawing, was so advanced that only now with the advent of accessible technology and advances in modern knowledge of the heart, it is possible to re-interpret Leonardo’s conclusions and to point out how accurate his logical reasoning and pure observation really was. Several of his ideas continue to sit well alongside our modern understanding of cardiac physiology and heart function.

This book will feature all of Leonardo’s drawings on the heart and its physiology, accompanied by translations of his accompanying notes. The veracity of Leonardo’s work is proven against contemporary dissections of cardiac structure and wherever possible, his illustrations are compared with contemporary images generated by magnetic resonance scanners and high definition ultrasound. It represents the only modern interpretation of Leonardo’s works by a practicing clinician and anatomist in a way that is meaningful to cardiology and medical specialists as well as art historians, and the general public.

Key Features

  • ​​​​​​​​​​​This will be the first time that all Leonardo’s drawings of the heart and circulation have been reproduced together accompanied by contemporary translations of his own writings
  • It is the only modern interpretation of Leonardo’s works by a practicing cardiac clinician and anatomist in a way that is meaningful to cardiology and medical specialists
  • Leonardo’s own work will be put in context with modern knowledge and imaging


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