8The Mystery of Life

The grand unifying theme of Leonardo’s explorations of the macro-and microcosm was his persistent quest to understand the nature of life. Over the years, as he studied, drew, and painted the flows of water and air, the rocks and sediments of the Earth, the growth patterns of plants, and the anatomy of the human body, he correctly identified several of life’s key biological characteristics.

Early on, he recognized the fundamental role of water as life’s medium and vital fluid, the matrix of all organic forms (see p. 18). “It is the expansion and humor of all living bodies,” he wrote in one of his earliest Notebooks, Manuscript ...

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