Leonardo compiled endless sketches of both human and animal forms in order to help guide his paintings and sculptures. Much of what he discovered about human anatomy and physiology was through dissecting cadavers he had stolen from the morgue. To determine bodily proportions Leonardo spent months measuring 2 young men and eventually created his rendition of Vitruvius' Vitruvian Man.

Vitruvius was a moderately successful architect and engineer living during the Roman Empire. His derivation of human proportions was the only theory of proportion to survive from antiquity. Leonardo drew from Vitruvius' theory and corrected his inconsistencies and created a new image. Leonardo's version of the Vitruvian Man remains to this day the most famous and accurate depiction of the human body.

In Leonardo's version, the adult male body (shown in two related and super imposed stances) fits within a circle and a square, but those two shapes are not directly related to one another. Using digital photos of adult males, students will create their own "Vitruvian Man" and will use these images to learn about fractions found within the human body. They will also compare the proportions of males to those of females and adolescents.

Activities: The Vitruvian Man Project

Useful link: Math and the Vitruvian Man

© T. Green and K. McKie 2002