In Toby Lester’s Da Vinci’s Ghost: Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image (to be published February 7 of next year), the author explains that Leonardo da Vinci carried a notebook on his belt in which he constantly sketched or left memoranda to himself.
Robert Krulwich, at an NPR blog, offers a translation of Leonardo’s personal To-Do list from some point early in the 1490s.
It’s an interesting list, testifying to its author’s remarkably broad range of practical and abstract interests, and as Maggie Koerth-Baker notes admiringly, to his recognition of superior expertise in the possession of others.
I think it’s pretty interesting that of the nine tasks shown, six involve consulting and learning from other people. Leonardo da Vinci needs to find a book. Leonardo da Vinci needs to get in touch with local merchants, monks, and accountants who he hopes can help him better understand concepts within their areas of expertise.
Leonardo da Vinci knows he doesn’t know everything.
I think that’s a big deal.
The fact that questions Leonardo intends to address so commonly include notes of just how he intends to obtain the necessary information is, I think, likely to make many of us with experience in research smile in recognition of a kindred spirit.