On March 18, 2002, I was writing a letter to potential publishers of this book to explain how its author, a Russian scientist based in America, was just shaping it up into its final form after thirty-five years of study and research on Leonardo da Vinci’s scientific method. I was then well familiar with the detailed plan that Mikhail A. Mogilevsky had adopted for an in-depth analysis and interpretation of what characterizes the contents of Leonardo’s manuscripts, namely the presence of a method in approaching every possible problem in the study of Nature. Since the publication of Paul Valery’s Introduction à la méthode de Léonard de Vinci in 1894, with its emphasis on Leonardo’s philosophical cast of mind – the author was a poet, not a scientist –, not a single study has ever appeared, in any language and in any form, that could be shown to have adopted a comparable approach to the problem of the working of Leonardo’s mind, and this by dealing with the full range of Leonardo’s scientific investigations and achievements.
Because of his rigor of reasoning, extraordinary power of synthesis and ingratiating expository clarity, it is almost a paradox that Professor Mogilevsky should be able to address simultaneously the specialist and the neophyte, the university professor and the student. The way the varied and complex matter as articulated in this book is indeed self-explanatory, and in fact the author’s concept of “Differential Education” shows that he has had the training and possesses the knowledge to meet any such challenge with unfailing success. Eloquent proof of this was given four years ago, in November 2006, with the publication – as a sort of ballon d’essaie – of his article on “Leonardo’s Optics” in the bi-monthly SCIENCE First Hand, a popular science journal with an international audience, which is published by the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
While that article appeared in Russia, in Italy, and precisely in Florence, the city of Leonardo’s formative years, the first innovative Leonardo exhibition was staged at the world-famous Uffizi Gallery on the theme “The Mind of Leonardo”, a special event organized in 2006-2007 by the Museum and Institute for the History of Science under the directorship of Professor Paolo Galluzzi and with the close cooperation of some twenty scholars, including myself. It was a splendidly orchestrated collective effort to shows the intensity and complexities of Leonardo’s production as an artist, a scientist and a technologist in every possible field of human endeavor to underline Leonardo’s idea that painting too was for him a science. Hence the possibility for the public at large to perceive that there must have been a method systematically and constantly applied by him for the achievement of so many and diversified objectives under a variety of occasions and circumstances. And that’s precisely the method that the author of this book, all by himself, has now so brilliantly explained.
Los Angeles, University of California, 2010a