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Culture » Arts & Entertainment

101 Inventions @ Leonardo

New exhibit of world-changing innovations



In the less than two years it’s been open, The Leonardo has given Salt Lakers a chance to see exhibits they couldn’t have seen anywhere else in town, like the unique and breathtaking views of the human body in the traveling exhibit Mummies of the World. Technological innovation is also a big part of what The Leonardo offers in its unique blend of art and science and technology—as seen in its recent exhibit Da Vinci the Genius, which examined the artistic and technological innovations of the museum’s namesake.

The Leonardo’s summer show, 101 Inventions That Changed the World, is an illustration of the myriad ways science and technology have changed, time and time again, the way people live. The Leonardo is the first museum in the United States to host the traveling exhibit, designed by Australian firm Grande Exhibitions.

101 Inventions makes use of a novel technological device: The SENSORY4 projection system uses 40 high-definition projectors, towering visuals, multichannel motion graphics and surround sound to immerse attendees in the world of these inventions. In addition to the 35-minute presentation, real-life examples of many of the inventions are on display, as well as 3-D versions of artifacts, with augmented reality touch screens and iPads that visitors can use to explore these inventions further.

Invention might seem like a tedious, “back to the drawing board” pursuit, but this show tells the stories of innovators whose insatiable curiosity helped them change history. The list touches close to home for Utahns with Philo T. Farnsworth, whose idea for the “image dissector”—presenting an image using alternating scanned lines—led directly to the invention of television. His story is all the more amazing for the fact that he came up with the idea at the age of 15.

The list of 101 inventions was chosen by a panel of experts from all corners of the globe, including directors of science centers like The Leonardo. “It’s not intended to be a definitive list,” says Bryton Sampson, communications manager for The Leonardo. “The real purpose was to provoke discussion, and make audiences consider the importance of things they perhaps haven’t considered before. We’ve already received feedback from guests wondering why this invention or that invention was left off the list, which is great.”

Among the selections are dramatic items that marked the birth of an era, like fire and the nuclear reactor, as well as items that were relatively simpler, yet no less significant: maps, reinforced concrete, the abacus, the wheel and the axle. All are items we take for granted that make everyday tasks possible, and without which our lives would be vastly different. There’s no iPad on the list, but the integrated circuit made a whole array of electronic devices possible.

As has been the case with all of The Leonardo’s exhibits, hands-on displays are an important part of 101 Inventions. The Lego Room offers 10,000 blocks for “children of all ages” to assemble as their imagination directs; yes, Legos are one of the 101. And Legos have progressed beyond the plastic interlocking blocks they started as—simple machines, powered mechanisms, renewable energy and robotics are some possible projects that can be made with Lego equipment.

The Tinkering Garage, on The Leonardo’s second floor, provides even more possibilities to take inventions apart and rebuild them, becoming educated on principles of basic engineering and circuitry.

It may be hard to imagine life without many of these inventions, but the presentation looks at them all as works of the imagination. None of them was inevitable, and they all depended upon the mind of an individual to conceive of and create each of them. That’s why The Leonardo views its purpose so seriously, Sampson says. “Our mission is to inspire innovation and creativity in people of all ages, and what better way to be inspired than to see some of the amazing achievements of which humankind is capable?”

Sampson has great hopes for the exhibit, and for The Leonardo in general, in terms of the ability to inspire: “Hopefully the next great inventor will be motivated by what they see and go on to change the world themselves!”

The Leonardo 
209 E. 500 South 
Through Sept. 15