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Page 8

Newsletter 125 Summer 2019   © Hampshire Mills Group

 

 

Leonardo da Vinci Multiple Cylinder Watermill

 

Keith Andrews

 

The excellent Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan is housed in an early 16th century Olivetan monastery.  It has an enormous range of exhibits covering all aspects of science and technology, only a small proportion of which are directly connected to Leonardo.  However, amongst them is this model of a multiple cylinder watermill, as shown in the photograph above.  (Apologies for the poor quality as it was of necessity taken through glass.)

The model was constructed in 1952-3 by Alexander Siriati, based on a drawing by Leonardo (Codex Atlanticus, folio 830 (1493), Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan).  The description on its label (fortunately all the labels in the museum are in Italian and English!) reads:

This mill, conceived to be positioned straddling a watercourse, is equipped with a large number of millstones actuated by a single motor force.  The drawing probably dates from 1493 when Leonardo sojourned at Vigevano, Ludovico il Moro’s favourite ducal city, during which he performed studies and observations relating to land reclamation, hydraulics, and irrigation.  Four series of hydraulic wheels are positioned along the canal at different levels, each connected to a different transmission shaft, which engage 32 millstones, 16 on each side.  The paddle wheels, moved by the falling water, actuate the system of shafts and gears so as to move the millstones simultaneously.

There is a clearer picture on the museum’s website:  see
http://www.museoscienza.org/english/leonardo/modello_dettaglio.asp?id_macchina=53 .
This shows that beneath the floors supporting the millstones are horizontal shafts connected to the waterwheel.  They have crown gears meshing with what look to be lantern pinions on vertical shafts that act as stone spindles;  unfortunately they are not very visible in my photograph.  On the platforms above the watercourse are what look to be sluice controls.

 

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