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Leonard Shlain
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Leonardo's Brain: The Split Hemispheric Roots of Creativity.

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  357 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Best-selling author Leonard Shlain explores the life, art, and mind of Leonardo da Vinci, seeking to explain his singularity by looking at his achievements in art, science, psychology, and military strategy and then employing state of the art left-right brain scientific research to explain his universal genius. Shlain shows that no other person in human history has excelle ...more
Published (first published October 7th 2014)
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Oct 28, 2014 Eric rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Leonardo's Brain: Understanding da Vinci's Creative Genius opens in perhaps the saddest way. In the "Note to Reader," the author's children inform us how Leonard Shlain, while in the middle of writing this book, was diagnosed with cancer. He finished the book on on May 3rd and died eight days later. It makes you appreciate the creative drive and passion Shlain had that, even faced with a terminal disease, he was determined to finish thi
Oct 17, 2014 Emma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
***Disclaimer: I received this book as part of a first-reads giveaway***

This book was well written and well researched. Leonard Shlain definitely presents something for both those interested in modern science (especially neuroscience) and for the history buffs. Although in a few places his argument seems a little stretched or simplified (I have read some more updated research about spatial brain functioning that may complicate his claims), overall Shlain weaves a story that peaks the curiosity.
Larry Angus
Jan 16, 2014 Larry Angus rated it it was amazing
Leonard Shlain is extremely popular but not that widely known. His lectures were standing room only and his former books like Art and Physics are amazing. Yet this was his masterpiece as he worked on it for years. As a brain surgeon, he knew what he was writing about as he studied Leonardo as no one before. His argument that Leonardo was the most brilliant human (yes, ever) makes probable sense when you begin to understand how whole brain thinking was the secret to his success, talent, and amaze ...more
Oct 21, 2014 J.S. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Anything you (or anyone else) can do, Leo can do better

Leonardo da Vinci died nearly 500 years ago, yet Leonard Shlain attempts to examine his thinking through what is known of him and what art and writings he left behind against the backdrop of current left-brain/right brain science. Da Vinci is represented as the greatest and brightest artist that ever lived. In addition, his scientific thoughts and notes were far in advance of anything anyone else had ever thought of at the time. One quote fr
Heidi The Hippie Librarian
I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. FTC guidelines: check!

Leonard Schlain has written a comprehensive tome that looks at Leonardo da Vinci from the perspective of a brain surgeon and neuroscientist. This book is as complicated as the man it examines, being part informational art history, part biological treatise, and part evolutionary speculation.

I learned quite a lot from this. I knew that Leonardo was renowned for his artwork but I didn't know the extent of his i
Jan 24, 2015 Abeing rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was enjoying this book until I got to chapter 15 that proposes that da Vinci might have had ESP powers and been a remote viewer. The author is not a scientist and it shows with the pseudo-scientific studies he cites for his claim that remote viewing exists. That really killed my enjoyment of the book as it cast everything else the author had said about how the human brain works into doubt. If his standards for what is accepted science are so low, how can I trust that his standards for what we ...more
Esther Dan
Jul 18, 2015 Esther Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous study on the history DaVinci's impact during the Renaissance movement. The author believes he was the first Scientist before Galileo. Overall a fabulous study! I am not into his theory on evolution etc
Jul 16, 2015 Eric rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bargin-bin
I wish the author had mentioned his theories about Leonardo having psychic powers earlier, so I could have bailed on this book earlier.
Sherrie Pilkington
***I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway***

I really want to give this book 4 stars, because there is a lot of interesting content...but I just can't because the first 2/3rds of the book drag along much longer than they should. The author spends the majority of the book primarily listing Leonardo Da Vinci's attributes, accomplishments, and various projects. While this is interesting, and obviously necessary when one's goal is to discuss the mind of Leonardo Da Vinci, it was too much in comparis
Sep 18, 2015 Dennis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Poor Mr. Shlain here has based his whole understanding of how the brain works on the myth of "Left Brained/Right Brained".

This is pretty much a myth; an over-simplified understanding of how the brain works, however, this served as the main explanation for everything that the author claims were the reason for Leonardo's creative genius.

Here is an example of the typical argument found in this book:

"Although he actively engaged in metaphoric phrasing that bordered on poetry, Leonardo considered po
Aug 09, 2016 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book is extremely speculative. I'm convinced the author didn't understand the physics he was describing. There is a lot that needs to be taken on the authors word. There are numerous problems with this book. First, is, simply, given that Leonardo didn't share his scientific discoveries, it's hard to grant him titles, as he didn't lead to any advancement of the sciences. Second, while he may have "invented" all kinds of things, it seems most never left paper, so can you really have invented s ...more
PJ Wenzel
Jul 07, 2016 PJ Wenzel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-read
I liked this book because it gave me an insight into the remarkable genius of Leonardo. I also liked the author's approach in that it was 1. unique and 2. intentional. He had a hypothesis (or several of them), and he was seeking to show it through numerous illustrations. I'd say that if you had to sum up the hypothesis it would be: given what we know about all the great men and women of history, Leonardo stands alone as the most well-rounded and remarkable of them all.

Shlain seeks to show WHY t
Leif Denti
Dec 01, 2016 Leif Denti rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like the book but it falls flat on several accounts. First, the premise for this book, that the two halves of the brain are signiticantly different, is outdated. Comparing Leonardo's life and accomplishments to this old model of the brain is therefore bound to flounder.

Second, the whole attempt of even trying to say something about Leonardo's brain from historical records is a gigantic task. Unfortunately, it's not pulled off very convincingly. The book reads like two parallel accou
Jeff Rudisel
Human Creativity.
Science and Art.
Especially prominent in one of the most prolific expositors of both: Da Vinci.

Studied through the lens of the left/right duality of the brain, and with great attention to modern understanding of neural-circuitry and evolutionary understanding.
Leonardo seemed to be unique in human history in the degree of left/right integration.
All sounds good, right?
The first half of the book is very scientifically oriented and Leonardo's accomplishments are laid out quite admi
Oliver Sampson
Dec 17, 2016 Oliver Sampson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great idea for a book! A mixture of History, Art History, Psychology, and Brain Science, Leonardo's Brain is a wonderful attempt to try to get inside da Vinci's head. The book makes a convincing case that da Vinci was the first real scientist in addition to being the greatest artist who had lived up until his time, and details many of the groundbreaking scientific ideas and artistic techniques he originated. Each chapter is an easy read walking through various aspects of what is known ab ...more
Davis Das
Sep 19, 2015 Davis Das rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who know nothing about Leonardo or Neuroscience majors
This is the first book I've ever read on Leonardo ds Vinci. I know, I'm a little late to the party..but at least I'm here now, ok?

While I do admit the information in this book was mind-blowing, being my first time hearing of all his accomplishments; if I had known anything about his history before reading this book, there would only be a few points work noting. Lucky for you, I'll name the more important assumptions the author makes in the book: Leonardo was most likely gay (no surprise there),
Dec 17, 2014 Joey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't a aficionade of da Vinci but the author clearly was. He addressed da Vinci by his first name throughout the book and gave him generous praise thoough I found some fairly subjective and debatable.

You can get a feeling that the author had read a lot reference books on the science of brain and critics of da Vinci and curated this book - half on brain science and half on Leonardo.

I like that the author used the aproperiate length and detail to describe how the brain works in general. Too m
Jul 23, 2015 Kimberlie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, 2015
I enjoyed this book for the insight into the brain in general (specifically left vs right) and the inclusion of da Vinci was an interesting spin. In the beginning the author mentions his purpose is to study da Vinci's brain based on historical evidence, but I think he fell very short in that aspect. If he'd left that declaration out, the book would have been better for it. In fact, the author spent over 3/4ths of the book talking about da Vinci's works, then brain functions, and about only one c ...more
Mick Pletcher
Aug 25, 2015 Mick Pletcher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All I can say is wow! This book is spectacular in reviewing the achievements of one of humanity's greatest intellectuals of all times. The depth the book goes into at describing Leonardo's unprecedented abilities is very impressive. It analyzes his abilities partly by applying neuropsychology to his writings. Not only was he ambidextrous, but he also wrote right to left, besides the typical left to right. I knew of many of his inventions and scientific discoveries, but had no idea that he also i ...more
Nov 19, 2014 Annette rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I struggled to stay engaged enough to finish this book but I did make it to the end. I was looking forward to learning lots of interesting things about Leonardo and his brain. I was curious how the author had discovered so much about the topic since Leonardo has been dead for such a long time. Sadly reading this book felt more like running into a reasonably intelligent person at a party that keeps talking and talking about his opinion on a topic he is passionate about but doesn't really have any ...more
Nov 30, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made me create a new Shelf, must reads. The book is absolutely incredible and I'm amazed how much the author was able to pack into 200 pages. It is about not only Leonardo and his amazing accomplishments and how his brain must have been wired but about how different the human brain is from all other species, our ability to see not only 3 dimensions but comprehend 3 different dimensions of time as well. It's loaded with history and how far ahead Leonardo was. The author postulates that ...more
Mar 11, 2016 Adam rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book had strong potential initially but after awhile the reader begins to sense that the author is floundering and not sure where to go next. Very near the end of the book there are several postulations which are downright preposterous and far outside the realm of science which is the supposed foundation of this work. From the logical standpoint this is a big let down. In his dying days the author loosened up in his writing style and diverged into several mystical/magical sort of tangents w ...more
Oct 19, 2015 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the most part I thought this book was interesting, entertaining and educational. That said, at times it was speculative, questionable and a little out there.

Even though I disagree with some of the author's theories, I am still giving this book three stars because I enjoyed the read. For me, it is engaging and thought provoking to contemplate the beliefs of others especially when their opinions differ from my own.
Aug 20, 2015 Kruiser rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I desperately wanted to like this book. I didn't. Imagine being in the most boring Art History and Intro To Neurology classes ever, then imagine having the stomach flu. That's this book.

The author doesn't skimp on examples, this thing reads like one long journey through Wikipedia. It isn't until chapter 14 that a passing attempt is made at getting to what the book purports to want to do, but that doesn't last long, it's back to the mountain of examples.
Shana Yates
OK - so I liked about 80% of the book. Interesting mixture of biography of Leonardo da Vinci, juxtaposed with neurology and how his brain might have been structured to give rise to his genius. So far, so good. And then . . . the author starts to talk about ESP, remote viewing, and brains rising to a higher level of consciousness and defying the space time continuum. Mmmmkay. It just felt like it went off the rails. #JumpTheShark
I knew very little about Leonardo before I picked up this book. Much of what I learned was fascinating if not incredible. Mr. Shlain, however, has an obvious bias against historic (biblical) Christianity. Several times he discussed Christianity in a negative light with skewed and incorrect information setting up "straw man" arguments.

If he had wrong facts about what I DO know, how do I know that the facts are true about what I don't know?
Dec 11, 2014 Sunil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started reading again. Because I had so much more to grasp from first reading last year.

Lot of useful information to categorise, and lot other free floating theories, which is neither fantastic than speculative ( especially the Remote Space theories) So if you are not a great Leonardo Aficionado take it with a pinch of salt.
Kathryn Bundy
Jan 12, 2015 Kathryn Bundy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes, it was a Christmas present and yes, I liked it. Leonard Shlain's previous books made me well disposed to have a favorable reaction. He always brings a distinctive viewpoint to his writing. It's not always an easy or even enjoyable read, a little uneven, but on the whole I'm very glad I have it on the shelf, in case I want to go back for more.
Regina Mastrogiacomo
There was a lot of facts about Leonard's ability, but I didn't understand why his brain was better than others. The author describe how parts of the brain is suppose to work, but it base all of Da Vinci great discover only on how it works and not on inspiration.
It was also amazing with all that was against Da Vinci that he succeed at all.
Leigh Statham
Spoiler Alert: Da Vinci invented everything. Eh-ver-eeeeee-thing.

This was an interesting read, but I found myself wanting to fact check every claim Shlain made. And who has time for that? Plus, I think Shlain's own story, barely mentioned, was more intriguing and believable. Fun read. Not earth shaking.
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Fascinating! 1 3 Nov 18, 2014 08:15AM  
Leonard Shlain's 4th book 2 13 Oct 09, 2014 01:30PM  
  • Not Quite Nirvana: A Skeptic's Journey to Mindfulness
  • Leonardo Da Vinci: Giants of Science #1
  • Leonardo's Legacy: How da Vinci Reimagined the World
  • Havel
  • Learning from the Voices in My Head
  • When Quietness Came: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey With Schizophrenia
  • The Misleading Mind: How We Create Our Own Problems and How Buddhist Psychology Can Help Us Solve Them
  • The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew
  • Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness
  • House Calls
  • Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness
  • Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Inner Wholeness Using IFS, a New, Cutting-Edge Therapy
  • Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self
  • The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery
  • Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself
  • Darwin: Portrait of a Genius
  • A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science behind Three Generations of Mental Illness
  • Angst: Origins of Anxiety and Depression
Leonard Shlain was an American surgeon and writer, the Chairman of Laparoscopic surgery at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and was an Associate Professor of Surgery at UCSF.
He was a speaker at such venues as the Smithsonian, Harvard University, Salk Institute, Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center and the European Union's Ministers of Culture. In 1999, he
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“He was like a man who awoke too early in the darkness while everyone else was still asleep. —Dmitry Merezhkovsky” 2 likes
“The intense effort to develop artificial intelligence has increased our understanding of neural networks because at its core, AI is but an attempt to improve artificially what the brain already does effortlessly.” 2 likes
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