Longevity & Legacy Portraits 2019: the Wide Achiever

Longevity and Legacy. A portrait collection of narratives from yesterday, today and tomorrow. No doubt, you have your own stories of singular lives, those you know and those you have read.

My collection began in late 2014, with some short posts reflecting on well-known and not so well known people from history who may or may not have had better odds on their promise of longevity and yet left a legacy tale. It started with mystery writer P.D. James who left her legacy most notably through the character of Adam Dalgliesh. More provocative for me is her dystopian novel, The Children of Men, set in 2021 and what happens in an age of infertility and depopulation.

Inspired by many others, I subsequently featured Louis Khan, the nomad architect as I called him, Vivian Maier, eccentric photographer orthe phantom camera as she appeared to me and  Jeremy Bentham, who you can still see at the UCL London asthe auto-icon.

In 2015, I continued with the urban activist Jane Jacobs, who if she were alive today would still have more than a lot to say about housing and community design. Then there was Canada’s Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who is still our five-dollar man, Dr. Marion Hilliard, my mother’s obstetrician at Women’s College Hospital in 1950’s Toronto, and lastly one of my all-time favourites Sir Christopher Wren, the dome and spiral marvel, with his belief that “Architecture aims at Eternity.” Quite the eclectic list.

Today for a change of pace from my normal flow of aging and longevity matters of the 2st century, I return to my Longevity & Legacy Portraits 2019.

The Wide Achiever

Leonardo da Vinci, 67

“In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.”


Some might call him a wide achiever, or if not the greatest, one of the great polymaths of all time. Last week was the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci . For someone of his time, a life of sixty-seven years is certainly a significant marker in longevity and I often think, if he transported in time to 2019, he would have recoiled at the mere suggestion of a retirement.

The most recent and fantastic biography of Leonardo da Vinci is the 2017 volume by Walter Isaacson, one of my treasured gifts from a friend. Some books you just want to hug, not just hold, but I will leave it to you to read, for what is there to say here that hasn’t been said before of his legacy. Of course, his artwork has often transmuted into a pop culture icon like in street art you might find in Florence. Then there are those crazy lineups for Mona Lisa at the Louvre.

Sometimes I have run across da Vinci when I least expected it. As when in Milan in 2004 I found myself sat with him in front of the Teatro alla Scala, and years later walking in Belgrave Square, London, suddenly, spread out through the foliage, stood the outdoor statue of Vitruvian Man (titled Homage to Leonardo), by Italian sculptor Enzo Plazzotta.

Five hundred years on and if the fates will have it, someone in 2519 will be talking da Vinci, and maybe, in wide achieving new ways, he will inspire and influence those future minds. 


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