Leonardo, born in Vinci, Italy, possessed a genius which went far beyond simply being a remarkable artist. He was, perhaps, the first European interested in a practical solution to flight. Leonardo designed a multitude of mechanical devices, including parachutes, and studied the flight of birds as well as their structure. About 1485 he drew detailed plans for a human-powered ornithopter (a wing-flapping device intended to fly). There is no evidence that he actually attempted to build such a device, although the image he presented was a powerful one. The notion of a human-powered mechanical flight device, patterned after birds or bats, recurred again and again over the next four centuries.
Central Framework Of Leonardo's Human-Powered Ornithopter - ca. 1485
A Mechanical Wing Device - ca. 1485
Another Mechanical Wing Device - ca. 1485
Leonardo's Human-Powered Ornithopter - ca. 1485
Leonardo also considered the prospect of gliding flight, as evidenced by the small sketches above - ca. 1485