Imprisoned by king Minos in a labyrinth on the island of Crete mythological figure Daidalos, father of Ikaros, shouts firmly: “Let Minos bar me the way by land and by sea, the free air is still open”.

He continues:

or “I’ll find a path there”.

For himself and his son he makes wings from bird-feathers, thread and wax. In this way they both escape but, becoming reckless, Ikaros rises too high and too close to the sun. The wax melts and he crashes into the sea.

Fig. 6-1
‘Landscape with the fall of Ikaros’
Attributed to Pieter Brueghel The Elder in 1555 or 1558

In the 16th century Leonardo da Vinci, artist and inventor, is considered the greatest genius of his era. Today, who isn’t familiar with his world-famous painting ‘La Gioconda’, better known as the portrait of Mona Lisa?

From his thirtieth until the end of his life he occupies himself, accurately studying the way birds move on in the air, with the question whether a human being will be able to fly. He designs a machine with wings which are moved by hands and feet.

Fig. 6-2
Sketch of ornithopter of Leonardo da Vinci

It is not exaggerated to state that his work has considerably influenced the development of science and engineering.