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The Leonardo Project: Shedding Light on Life, Genius of Leonardo da Vinci Through DNA Science

May 08, 2016 01:41 PM EDT
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Leading universities and institutes in France, Italy, Spain, Canada, and United States are now collaborating in hopes to shed some light in the life and genius of Leonardo da Vinci using authoritative research and modern detective technologies, including DNA science.

"The fact that a team of eminent scholars from different academic disciplines and parts of the world has united with the common objective of furthering investigation into one of the greatest geniuses is positive and very important," said Eugenio Giani, President of the Regional Council of Tuscany, in a press release.

This endeavor, dubbed as "The Leonardo Project", hopes to determine Leonardo's physical appearance, together with his diet, state of health, personal habits, and places of residence. The project also seeks to confirm if the presumed remains of Leonardo in the chapel of Saint-Hubert at the Château d'Amboise is really his.

"I think everyone in the group believes that Leonardo, who devoted himself to advancing art and science, who delighted in puzzles, and whose diverse talents and insights continue to enrich society five centuries after his passing, would welcome the initiative of this team-indeed would likely wish to lead it were he alive today," said Jesse Ausubel, Vice Chairman of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, sponsor of the Project's meetings in 2015 and 2016, in a statement.

In order to better understand Leonardo's way of life, researchers plans to explore the possibility of analyzing dust from Leonardo's paintings, drawings, and notebooks for possible DNA traces.

But due to the passage of time and restoration measures, finding fingerprints in Leonardo's work is very challenging.

If the presumed remains of Leonardo is confirmed to be his, scientists can utilize conventional and computerized techniques to reconstruct his face from models of the skull.

This project may also have a lasting contribution to art world. By advancing a technique for extracting and sequencing DNA from other centuries-old works of art, and associated methods of attribution, forgery can be prevented, eradicating the multi-billion industry.

The Project's objectives, motives, methods, and work to date are detailed in a special issue of the journal Human EvolutionThe scientists plans to conclude the project on 2019, in line with the celebration of 500th year anniversary of Leonardo's death.

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