Leonardo’s robot

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A modern reconstruction of the robot of Leonardo da Vinci in the Leonardo3 laboratories, in 2007

Leonardo’s robot, or Leonardo’s mechanical knight (Italian: Automa cavaliere, lit. “Automaton knight”), was a humanoid automaton designed and possibly constructed by Leonardo da Vinci around the year 1495.[1]

Model of Leonardo’s robot with inner workings, on display in Berlin

The design notes for the robot appear in sketchbooks that were rediscovered in the 1950s.[1] Leonardo is said to have displayed the machine at a celebration hosted by Ludovico Sforza at the court of Milan in 1495. The robot knight could stand, sit, raise its visor and independently manoeuvre its arms, and had an anatomically correct jaw. The entire robotic system was operated by a series of pulleys and cables. Since the discovery of the sketchbook, the robot has been built faithfully based on Leonardo’s design and was found to be fully functional.[2]

The robot is described as being clad in German-Italian medieval armor, and is able to make several human-like motions. It is partially a result of Leonardo’s anatomical research in the Canon of Proportions as described in the Vitruvian Man.


  1. ^ a b

    Moran, Michael E. (December 2006). “The da Vinci robot”. Journal of Endourology. 20 (12): 986–90. doi:10.1089/end.2006.20.986. PMID 17206888. … the date of the design and possible construction of this robot was 1495 … Beginning in the 1950s, investigators at the University of California began to ponder the significance of some of Leonardo’s markings on what appeared to be technical drawings … It is now known that da Vinci’s robot would have had the outer appearance of a Germanic knight.

  2. ^ Rosheim; Mark Elling. Leonardo’s Lost Robots. Springer, 2006, p. 69.