Leonardo’s Brain, The Future of the Brain, Dodging Extinction, and Arrival of the Fittest

Leonardo’s Brain: Understanding Da Vinci’s Creative Genius


By Leonard Shlain
Lyons Press, October 2014

He was the archetypal genius. A painter. A scientist. An inventor. An engineer. Even today, he remains the dictionary definition of a Renaissance man: Leonardo da?Vinci. In Leonardo’s Brain, surgeon and best-selling author Leonard Shlain undertakes a hypothetical dissection of the ancient master’s intellect, attributing the roots of his creativity to a particular arrangement of his gray and white matter. Da?Vinci’s brain must have functioned unlike any that came before or after, the author postulates, thanks in part to enhanced white-matter connections between his right and left hemispheres. Shlain applies modern neuroscience to probe one of history’s most innovative brains and uses da?Vinci as a lens through which to view the broader issues of brain organization, creativity, and consciousness.

Ironically, Shlain’s own brain was being ravaged by cancer as he finished what would be his final work. Dying just eight days after completing the book in May 2009, Shlain instructed his children to see to its publication. The work stands as the last in a line of probing and entertaining books from a thinker who possessed his own brand of genius.