The 16th Century Satellite Map of da Vinci

In 1502, Leonardo da Vinci was hired to create a new map of the Italian city of Imola. He was instructed to forego the typically imaginative style of the time in favor of a more instructional and practical map, one that showed the city from directly overhead, to be used by the military and politicians to plan for the city’s security and fortification. Using polar coordinates that originate from the city’s center, a handheld compass and an odometer device, da Vinci walked every inch of the city’s winding streets and alleyways in order to render this fantastically accurate street map. The result is as artful as you’d expect from The Master, with its delicate washes and outlines. The overhead view achieved is was what today we call ithnographic (“track or trace” + “to write”) Ground plans, or blueprints, are well-known examples of an ithnographic map. Click here for a short video that explains da Vinci’s method.