Leonardo's vision of flow visualization
Leonardo's studies of cardiovascular systems, in more than 50 surviving pages from two phases of his research (around 1508–1509 and 1513), are a clear demonstration of his observational genius and progressive deduction of cardiac mechanics and the vascular system. He carried out a detailed hemodynamic study of the aortic valve motion and the role of the Sinus of Valsalva in the closure dynamics of the aortic valve, and he accurately correlated the formation of vortices with the separation of a retarded (shear) layer from the lips of the leaflets. In-vivo verification of vortex formation in the Sinus of Valsalva during the systolic phase awaited the application of modern phase-averaged magnetic resonance imaging techniques. Did Leonardo actually build the glass model he twice mentioned, thus performing the first scientific flow visualization of impulsive vortex formation or other fluid mechanical phenomena? Evidence in support of this possibility can be found in both the unusually schematic style he employed for this suite of drawings and the recent flow imaging results obtained in our laboratory through laser-based imaging techniques.
© 2002 Springer-Verlag. Received: 1 February 2002; Accepted: 19 April 2002 Published online: 28 June 2002. The authors would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Mehrdad Zarandi for his contribution to DPIV experiments conducted for this study.