What is it about?

This article is about Leonardo da Vinci’s ingenious cast of the cerebral ventricles by using melted wax c. 1508. For the first time in medical history, a setting medium was injected into a body cavity to depict its shape. Our article also addresses the misinterpretation of Leonardo’s depiction of this cast in his anatomical folios treasured at Windsor Castle. His drawing of a brain cut in the midline has been mistaken as a transverse section, and virtually all scholars have described bilateral connections between the first and the middle ventricles, respectively. Instead, we show, using graphical means and magnetic resonance imaging, that a proper midline section of the brain cannot visualize the two lateral ventricles and their interventricular foramina (named after Monro) in the human and ruminant brains, respectively. Our results do not dispute the extraordinary findings of Leonardo but rather correct the subsequent inaccurate statements made in the literature over a period of almost 100 years. We discuss the legitimacy of our approach as well as the realism of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings.

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Why is it important?

Strictly adhering to scientific truth should be the central concern of every researcher and scientific author. The significance of a genius like Leonardo cannot be dimished by correcting improper attributions to him. Leonardo himself did advocate “true and complete knowledge of what you want to know about the figure of man”.


We do hope to clarify longstanding misinterpretations and to sharpen the view on the findings even of science and cultural heroes. With regarding to Leonardo, it is important to remind the public of his superb anatomical drawings and not least his cast of the cerebral ventricles which foreshadowed many of today’s diagnostic and interventional radiologic procedures.

M.D., M.A.S. Klaus F. Steinsiepe
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Zürich, Switzerland

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Leonardo da Vinci, the Ventricles of the Brain, and the Foramen of Monro, Nuncius, August 2022, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/18253911-bja10033.
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