Forensics, Genius, and Enthusiasm in the Genetics of Leonardo da Vinci

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D.S. Thaler


Why do we want the DNA sequence of Leonardo da Vinci?1 Three categories, or contexts, suggest themselves: The first is in support of art history, provenance studies, and forensics. The presence of DNA attributable to the master would be evidence of his physical proximity. Depending on details, molecular evidence might lend support to assertions that Leonardo had a hand in creating a particular work. The second category of reasons is to explore the hypothesis that Leonardo’s DNA sequence may contain clues to his physical qualities, materials of his work, diet, possible illnesses, and maternal lineage.2 The possibility that Leonardo’s DNA sequence might yield clues to his extraordinary visual sensibilities or even his singular genius deserves to be said explicitly.3 The third category is not a “reason” in the usual sense but an “apology” in the sense of explanation. It is that this quest is extraordinarily difficult and it engages our enthusiasm. Implications and challenges in each of these three categories are elaborated below.

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How to Cite
Thaler, D. (2024). Forensics, Genius, and Enthusiasm in the Genetics of Leonardo da Vinci. Human Evolution , 39(1-2), 1-15.
Author Biography

D.S. Thaler, Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland.

Thaler D.S.
– Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland.
– Program for the Human Environment, Rockefeller University, 
New York, USA.