A Visit to The Elliott Museum

Art     History     Technology

825 Northeast Ocean Boulevard

Stuart, Florida


The New Elliott Museum, March 2013

Sterling Elliott, for whom the museum was named, was a problem-solving inventor, risk taker, politician, publisher, and social activist. Together, Sterling and his son Harmon held over 200 patents.

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Changing Exhibit Gallery

The 3,000-square-foot Changing Exhibition Gallery allows the Elliott Museum to bring significant, national touring exhibitions to the region. The Leonardo da Vinci display, from which the following pictures were taken, was the Spring/Summer 2013 exhibit and will occupy the Gallery through September 2013.

Mystery of the Bicycle

This sketch of a bicycle was found in Leonardo's Madrid Codex, but Leonardo probably didn't draw it. Who did? No one knows. Perhaps it was done by a student of Leonardo's, copying his master's design. Perhaps it is a later forgery. In any case, bicycles didn't appear until the 19th century. This small drawing remains a tantalizing mystery.

Flapping Bird

In this ornithopter (a machine designed to fly by flapping its wings), the pilot functions as the engine. He stands in the middle of the structure hooked up to a complicated drive transmission. By moving his arms, legs, and head, he powers the flapping of the huge wings.

Ropes and Pulleys

Here Leonardo designed a combination of ropes and pulleys called a block and tackle. The mechanism can be used to lift heavy weights or exert large forces in any direction. Leonardo used ropes and pulleys in a number of his designs, including his glider and theater bird.

Measuring the Force of Air

The vertical piece to the left is hinged at the top so that the lower portion can move backward according to the force of air.

Measuring Humidity

Leonardo's design for measuring the air's humidity resembles a scale. A chunk of wax is placed in one tray and an equal weight of cotton in the other. Because cotton absorbs moisture but wax does not, increased humidity makes the cotton heavier, unbalancing the scale. Changes in the amount of humidity can be read along the calibrated horizontal bar. Leonardo designed the machine to help predict the best flying weather.

Leonaardo's Spinning Battery

A flywheel is a spinning wheel. As it revolves, it stores energy like a battery, running for a while even without a source of power. One of the oldest and most common mechanical devices, a flywheel is used in pottery wheels, gyroscopes, merry-go-rounds, and automobiles. In Leonardo's flywheel, spinning the shaft generates centrifugal force that lifts the hanging weights into a horizontal, wheel-like position. Let go of the crank and the shaft will continue to spin until it reeases its energy. The weights then fall back down.

Mobile Machine Gun

The barrels in Leonardo's design fan out, enabling the gun to fire upon a wide swath of enemy soldiers. With its two large wheels, it is easily towed and turned. The tall worm screw at back controls the machine gun's aim by adjusting its height. Most likely the barrels are loaded from the rear, through the small door between the wheels, a technique called "breach loading." Modern, breach-loaded machine guns did not appear until the last half of the 19th century, during the U.S. Civil War.

"The air moves like a river and carries the clouds with it; just like running water carries all things that float upon it."

. . . Leonardo da Vinci

Bombarding the Enemy

A "bombard" (an early cannon) originally fired a stone ball. Leonardo designed his bombard to fire deadly exploding shells that rained flaming iron fragments on their targets. The crank-worm screw assembly at the rear of the bombard allows soldiers to change aim and the shells' trajectory by adjusting the cannon's height.

Moving Materials (and Olive)

Leonardo designed this crane not only to lift materials but to rotate in a circle, transporting its load from one area to another. The crane utilizes a number of Leonardo's favorite mechanical devices: rope and pulley, winch, friction-reducing wheels, and a locking system to prevent the load from falling.

Ready, Aim, Fire!

Soldiers inside the tank aimed their cannons by sighting the battlefield through observation holes in the elevated turret..

" . . . by its power (fire) shall transform almost everything from its natural condition into another."

. . . Leonardo da Vinci

Inside the Tank
Measuring the Miles
Ball Bearings

In this design, Leonardo combined a ball bearing and a worm screw to produce a check. The model illustrates the function of the ball bearing. As the upper disk turns, the rolling balls reduce the friction between the disks.

3-Ball Bearing

In this design, Leonardo used three ball bearings to reduce friction between a vertical shaft and horizontal members.

Locking the Load

This simple design prevents the rotating gear wheel from spinning in the opposite direction--a particilar danger when the wheel is used for lifting heavy loads. The angle bar that blocks the gear's reverse rotation is called a "pawl." Leonardo designed this device to prevent the load from falling out of his revolving crane.

Rolling Out Metal

Leonardo designed this rolling mill to shape metal. Turning the crank rotates drums that compress and stretch sheets of metal, just as a rolling pin stretches pizza dough. This system is still used today.

Double Mover

Here Leonardo doubled the action of his Revolving Crane.

Lifting Pillars

Leonardo designed this giant piece for the lifting of pillars.

Chain Drive

This design by Leonardo found its way to the chain drives used on bicycles and motorcycles.

How to Measure Distance Travelled

Step 1 - Place one marble only in each hole on top, horizontal wheel.

Step 2 - Turn the lower vertical wheel.

Step 3 - Multiply the number of marbles that drop into the collection box by 80, the circumference of the vertical wheel in inches.

"When once you have tasted flight, you will for ever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."

. . . Leonardo da Vinci

Piston to Gearwheel

This design by Leonardo transfers energy from piston to gearwheel.

People Power|

For Leonardo's flying machines, a major problem was power. In this ornithopter, ropes, pulleys, couples, and cranks connect the pilot to the wings. Other rope wrapped around his shoulders allow him to steer. By pumping his arms and pushing with his legs on bicycle-like pedals, he powers the craft into the air--or so it was intended. The reality is that no one person could ever generate enough power to lift the heavy machine into the air.

Hang Glider
From Rotary to Back and Forth

Leonardo's water saw converts the revolving movement of the paddle wheel to the back and forth movement of the saw. This design illustrates the mechanism involved. It is still in use today--for example, in the movement of steam engines.

Dropping the Hammer

Leonardo often saw blacksmiths hard at work pounding iron into different shapes. He designed a machine to automate the basic process of striking a hammer onto an anvil. The rotating cam converts revolving motion to back and forth motion.

From Rotary to One Way

Here Leonardo designed a machine to convert revolving motion to one-way motion. When you turn the crank, the toothed rack trvels in one direc5ion. Turn the crank the other way, and the rack travels in the opposite direction. The mechanism is used today--for example, in automobile jacks, windshield wipers, and "rack and pinion" steering.

Two Wood Figures

Webbed Glove

Leonardo described his hand paddle as a "webbed glove for sea swimming." It's material (probably leather) is stiffened by five wood ribs. As usual, Leonardo turned to nature for inspiration. His models were ducks and other web-footed animals.

Life Preserver

Leonardo conceived his life preserver as a "way to escape in a storm and marine shipwreck."

Spanning the River

For armies on the move, it can be important to build and dismantle bridges quickly and easily. Leonardo's arched bridge (also known as a "saving" bridge because it provided soldiers a way to find safety) requires no ropes or brackets. Its ingenius structure alone supports and maintains the bridge.

Worm Gear

The heart of Leonardo's Archimedes Screw is a worm screw: a shaft with a spiral thread along its length. Here a worm screw is combined with a gear wheel to make a worm gear. We often use worm gears today. Examples include a hoist such as this machine, automobile traansmissions, coneyer belts, and turning mechanisms for guitars and other instruments.

Date of visit: August 20, 2013
Comment welcome.
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