whale skeleton

Leonardo da Vinci saw a whale fossil that opened his mind to deep time

Leonardo da Vinci may have been the first person to describe a fossil whale

Panther Media GmbH / Alamy

A young Leonardo da Vinci saw a fossil whale embedded in an Italian hillside – centuries before what is currently regarded as the first description of such a fossil. The experience may have given the Renaissance-era genius an intuitive appreciation of the vast age of Earth, long before geologists realised the planet’s antiquity.

Leonardo da Vinci, born in 1452 in what is now Italy, wrote about many scientific subjects, centuries before the rise of organised research. The claim that he …

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