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Leonardo da Vinci (April 15, 1452 ? May 2, 1519) was an Italian Renaissance architect, musician, anatomist, inventor, engineer, sculptor, geometer, and painter. He has been described as the archetype of the "Renaissance man" and as a universal genius, a man both infinitely curious and infinitely inventive.

Leonardo is famous for his masterly paintings, such as The Last Supper and Mona Lisa. He is also known for designing many inventions that anticipated modern technology, although few of these designs were constructed in his lifetime. In addition, he advanced the study of anatomy, astronomy, and civil engineering. Of his works, only a few paintings survive, together with his notebooks (scattered among various collections) containing drawings, scientific diagrams and notes. The Columbia Encyclopedia (1963) states, "The richness and originality of intellect in his notebooks reveal one of the great minds of all time."

The first known biography of Leonardo was published in 1550 by Giorgio Vasari who wrote Vite de' piu eccelenti architettori, pittori e scultori italiani ("The lives of the most excellent Italian architects, painters and sculptors"), and later became an independent painter in Florence. Most of the information collected by Vasari was from first-hand accounts of Leonardo's contemporaries, (Vasari was only a child when Leonardo died), and it remains the first reference in studying Leonardo's life.

Leonardo, the illegitimate son of a Florentine notary named Ser Piero and a local peasant woman called Caterina, was born before modern naming conventions developed in Europe; his name "Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci", simply means "Leonardo, son of [Mes]ser Piero, from Vinci". Leonardo signed his works "Leonardo" or "Io, Leonardo" ("I, Leonardo"). Leonardo grew up with his father, Ser Piero, in Florence where he started drawing and painting.

His early ......

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