The Science of Leonardo

Much as Harold Bloom discerned the roots of our modern sensibilities in the figure of a single phenomenal writer in his study Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998), so too does Fritjof Capra, author of the classic The Tao of Physics (1975), trace the genesis of the scientific method -- as well as prescient foreshadowings of contemporary fields such as complexity theory and deep ecology -- to a lone pioneering genius, in The Science of Leonardo. In Capra's thesis, da Vinci's unique blend of art, science, and design -- rationalism, empiricism, and empathetic imagination united in a holistic matrix -- earns the Renaissance polymath the designation of the "true founder of modern science." Drawing on recent scholarship that has, finally, arrayed in chronological order and definitively annotated the entire 6,000 surviving pages of Leonardo's notes (out of a reputed 13,000!) in accessible facsimile editions, Capra presents an enthralling portrait of both "Leonardo, the Man" and "Leonardo, the Scientist." Historical context is rendered crystal clear, as are the scientific principles of Leonardo's researches and his painterly techniques. No mystical flights of fancy obtain -- Illuminati need not apply -- since the simple truth of the man's far-flung accomplishments are nearly unbelievable. Capra notes that each era reinvents its own version of Leonardo, and this volume gives us a Gaia-loving, SFX-creating �ber-geek Leonardo, who would fit right into some Google R&D facility, where he could zestily blue-sky the utopian future we all long to inhabit. -

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

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What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

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