Elephants! The ancient worlds “Armoured Vehicle”, spread terror amongst enemy forces with their gargantuan size charging head first into the enemies battle lines, sometimes exceeding 15.5 mph. Well no longer, Leonardo Da Vinci has gone and invented the Tank!
The precursor to the modern tank, Da Vinci’s tank was capable of moving in any direction and was equipped with a large number of weapons. The platform was covered by a large protective cover, re-enforced with with metal plates which was to be slanted to better deflect enemy fire. The motion of the machine was to be powered by 8 men inside of the tank who would constantly turn cranks to spin the wheels. Despite its elaborate design, Da Vinci’s tank has a major flaw, the powering cranks in opposite directions which made forward motion impossible. This is a novice mistake, one that could not be made with someone of Leonardo’s talent.
Scholars suggest that having invented the tank Da Vinci was still a pacifist at heart. Therefore he may have inserted the flaw intentionally to discourage the war machine from ever being built, due to its deadly potential. But there is another explanation, as an artisan he did not want any of his ideas to be stolen or published. There were no such thing as copyright laws in these times and Da Vinci may simply have wanted to keep these ideas only to himself. And perhaps eventually his patrons.
Nothing remotely close to Leonardo’s tank would be seen again until over four hundred years later during world war 1. And even then Leonardo’s tank had an advantage over the tanks built in the first world war – sloped armour.
Boxes B & D represent the armour made on a tank of Leonardo’s designs. Again this plate of armour is also 30mm thick.
The difference here is that, if you take that small piece of armour and rotate it by 45°, you increase the stopping power by a significant amount (armour plate increased from 30mm thick to 42.4mm thick). This also make it alot more economical than increasing the thickness of the armour. The sloped armour would deflect the force of projectiles upwards and away from the tank itself.
In other words, When Da Vinci invented the Tank over 400 years ago, he did a better job than those who created the tank in the first world war.
Like many of Leonardo’s conceptions, inspiration for the tank came from an object in nature. In this case a Tortoise shell. “Human subtlety will never devise an intention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.” Leonardo Da Vinci.