Da Vinci's earliest notes on laws of friction found

SCRIBBLED pages in a notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, previously dismissed as nonsense, have been revealed as the polymath's earliest musings on the laws of friction.

Leonardo is widely considered the founder of tribology, a branch of mechanical engineering and materials science that deals with the principles of friction.

Now, scientists have a better understanding of when Leonardo first began to understand the laws of friction. In the years following these early scribbles, Leonardo would expand on the role of friction in engineering and the development of machines.

The significance of the scribbles was discovered by Ian Hutchings, a professor engineering at the University of Cambridge.

"The sketches and text show Leonardo understood the fundamentals of friction in 1493," Hutchings said in a news release.

Art historians had previously dismissed the scribbles as nonsense, focusing instead on the significance of a sketch of a woman some suggest is Helen of Troy.

Beneath the woman figure is a quote: "cosa bella mortal passa e non dura," or "mortal beauty passes and does not last."

Next to his thoughts on the principles of friction are a series of sketched diagrams, one depicting a pulley system with a series of blocks supporting a rope tied to a heavy weight.

"He knew that the force of friction acting between two sliding surfaces is proportional to the load pressing the surfaces together and that friction is independent of the apparent area of contact between the two surfaces," Hutchings said.

Until now, science historians have credited French scientist Guillaume Amontons with first describing the laws of friction -- 200 years after Leonardo first put them on paper.

"Leonardo's 20-year study of friction, which incorporated his empirical understanding into models for several mechanical systems, confirms his position as a remarkable and inspirational pioneer of tribology," Hutchings concluded.

Hutchings' analysis of Leonardo's early ideas on friction is detailed in a new paper, published this week in the journal Wear.

Leonardo's groundbreaking notebook is currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. (UPI)

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