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Sometime between 1498-1500, Leonardo da Vinci invented the ball bearing via detailed drawings of how it would work. It was round about the time he was working on his famous helicopter sketches (most possibly inspired by nature i.e. wind dispersal seeds or helicopter whirlybird seeds). He must have reasoned that the propeller was going to need to spin really, really fast.

He can be forgiven for not being a very good mathematician; in fact his maths was so far off on the weight-to-lift ratio, that had he known and understood the numbers involved - he probably would have never bothered with his designs.

But he understood something would have to allow the propeller to turn extremely fast without too much fiction. And so he invented the ball bearing; providing detailed drawings of how a low coefficient of resistance would work. Pure genius; I believe this to be one of the greatest inventions, and without it there would have been no industrial revolution.

A ball bearing uses balls, rollers and a lubricating substance, to significantly reduce friction and maintain separation between surfacers. As a ball turns it has a much lower coefficient of friction (drag or resistance) than two flat surfaces moving plainly against each other. The purpose of a ball bearing is to reduce the surface area and rotational friction, while efficiently supporting a load (for example: a hub, axial or shaft). The science of lubrication is complicated but basically; a lubricate thats works is a lubricate that sees to it that the two surfaces never physically touch without the microscopic amount of lubricant.

Leonardo da Vinci is revered as a genius and luminary, even though he was very unsuccessful at anything other than his painting. Almost all of his inventions where completely impractical. His flying machines never even came close to lifting off the ground, most where in fact never even made - only conceptualised. He was quiet possibly the most impracticable man to have ever lived.

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