Da Vinci's sketches-turned-models on display at Water Tower Place

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The Da Vinci Machines Exhibition is open now on the third level at Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue. (WLS)

Many say Leonardo da Vinci was the most brilliant man of all time. Now, the Da Vinci genius has arrived in Chicago for an extended stay.

The Da Vinci Machines Exhibition is open now on the third level at Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue. The man who created the Mona Lisa - and much, much more - has been brought to Chicago by brothers Mark and John Rodgers. They call Da Vinci "the godfather of our civilization."

"Most people know Da Vinci by the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. But most people don't know he was the most prolific inventor of all time. He had almost 44,000 drawings of which only 14,000 survive," said Mark Rodgers, director of Da Vinci Machines Exhibition.

Sketches to make models to help tell the Da Vinci story - models like the first flying machine hang glider.

"These machines were made by third generation artisans in Florence, Italy directly from the books and drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci that he would have done 500 years ago," said John Rodgers, assistant curator of Da Vinci Machines Exhibition.

None of the originals - all made of wood - exist today. So these recreations give us Da Vinci's look at today's automobile transmission and much more.

"This is Leonardo Da Vinci's famous gear study. This is the beginning of all of the mass manufacturing processes that we have today," John Rodgers said.

The worm screw is the technology used to tune all stringed instruments. It's about the transformation from circular motion to linear motion, like in the old-fashioned steam locomotives. Just one more invention that has become a part of our lives.

Like, for instance, the helicopter. Da Vinci called it the air screw.

"If he would have had a sustainable power source like an internal combustion engine or an electric motor this thing could have operated. How cool is that?" Mark Rodgers said.

And your vintage Schwinn coaster bike is much older than you think. Good old Leo designed this over 500 years ago.

"In the 1400s. What a mind, what a mind," Mark Rodgers said.

Da Vinci lived in the future, and now, that future is ours.
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