Leonardo da Vinci invented the first refrigerator around 1492, when he was at the court of the Sforzas in Milan. His concept drawing depicts a sophisticated system of bellows that pump air into three leather chambers. These push the air briskly through 18 spouts into a central vacuum that holds the container to be cooled.
In the artist’s day, there were only passive methods of cooling (natural ventilation, underground storage), and the machine would have been remarkable.
However, Leonardo not only invented this machine and the robot
— he also invented the first drone. The discovery was announced by the Torre do Tombo National Archive in Lisbon, where research fellows found the sketches by chance.
The designs reveal a self-operating quadcopter made of pine, equipped with revolving platforms and a parachute-like form for flight.
Scholars consider these to be the most advanced designs among Leonardo’s more than 500 sketches
of flying machines. The most convincing detail is Leonardo’s handwriting, which he characteristically wrote backwards, making his words challenging and only possible to read with a mirror.
Leonardo developed his obsession with mechanical flight when acting as a military engineer advisor for the Milanese court. Many of his inventions would be adopted for war, including the tank, glider, parachute, diving suit, crossbow, and now, 500 years later, the drone.
In 2002, a BBC documentary
claimed that Leonardo purposefully introduced flaws into his war machines so that they couldn’t be used. According to Michael Mosley
, the executive producer, “He was a gay, vegetarian pacifist and the paradox is that he then goes and works for warlords. He was very aware that they might try to put his inventions to military use.”