The History of Bionics
Flying like a bird, swimming like a fish or constructing like insects – the dream to be able to do these things is as old as mankind itself. Again and again, natural models inspired researchers to ideas for new inventions, from flying apparatuses based on nature's models to roofs constructed like a spider's web or seashell.
In Greek mythology, Daedalos made wings for his son Icarus and himself, modelled after the wings of birds to escape the tyrant Minos. During their escape, however, Icarus came too close to the sun and the wax, which glued the wings together, melted and the feathers came undone – Icarus plummeted into the sea. Although Daedalos' notion was quite visionary for the later scientific discipline 'bionics', it was not its beginning. And we can learn something else from this myth: doing bionics does not mean copying nature.
Leornardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) was a universal genius. He was an artist, philosopher, scientist and the first real bionic researcher. After studying the flight of birds, he wrote his classic opus 'Sul vol degli uccelli' already in 1505 and constructed flying apparatuses, helicopters, and parachutes. Alas, the time was not ready yet and prevented his ideas from being turned into real products.
Inspired by Leonardo, a Turkish savant, Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi (1609 – 1649), also studied the flight of birds and developed a flying apparatus, with which he took off from the Galata Tower in Istanbul, crossed the Bosporus, and landed in Uskudar.