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Leonardo da Vinci Created the Design for the Miter Lock, Which Is Nonetheless Used within the Panama and Suez Canals

“A Man, a Plan, a Canal — Panama”: everyone knows the piece of infrastructure to which this well-known palindrome refers. However who, precisely, is the person? Some may think President Theodore Roosevelt within the position, given his oversight of the challenge’s acquisition by the US of America. Nevertheless it’s extra generally regarded as George W. Goethals, the Roosevelt-appointed chief engineer who introduced it to completion two years early. Then once more, one might additionally make the case for French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps, who initially conceived of not solely the Panama Canal but additionally the Suez Canal. And so long as we’re reaching again in historical past, how does Leonardo da Vinci strike you?

True, Leonardo died roughly 4 centuries earlier than the Panama Canal broke floor. However that its mechanism works in any respect owes to one among his many innovations: the miter lock, documented in one among his notebooks from 1497. The design, as defined in the Lesics video above, entails “two V-shaped picket gates” connected with hinges to the edges of a river.

Given their form, the water flowing by the river naturally forces the gates to shut, one facet forming a neat joint with the opposite. Inside, “because the water stage rises, the strain on the gate will increase,” which seals it much more tightly. To facilitate re-opening the “good watertight lock” thus fashioned, Leonardo additionally specified a set of sluice valves within the gates that may be opened to even out the water ranges once more.

The 20 th-century builders of the Panama Canal benefited from applied sciences unavailable in Leonardo’s time: highly effective motors, as an illustration, that might open and shut the gates extra effectively than human muscle. And although it has undergone enhancements over the previous century (such because the substitute of the geared system connected to these motors with much more efficient hydraulic cylinders), its construction and operation stay visibly derived from Leonardo’s elegant miter lock, as do these of the Suez Canal. About 80 ships cross by these two well-known waterways every day, and ships of a measurement scarcely conceivable within the fifteenth century at that: not unhealthy for a pair items of 500-year-old engineering.

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Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embrace the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the ebook The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Comply with him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.



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