A 690-year genealogical investigation locates 14 living descendants of Leonardo da Vinci

14 living descendants of the genius Leonardo da Vinci have been identified by researchers Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato  in  a decade-long investigation.

Researchers Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato

Leonardo himself had at least 22 half-brothers but no children. The five family branches are traced from Leonardo’s father, ser Piero (5th generation), and half-brother Domenico (6th). Since the 15th generation, data has been collected on over 225 individuals. The study, with the collaboration of the living descendants, contributes to the work of the Leonardo Da Vinci Heritage Association.

This extraordinary, authoritative 690-year genealogical investigation is fundamental to affiliated scientific work Vezzosi and Sabato have underway with the international Leonardo da Vinci DNA project, supported by The Richard Lounsbery Foundation. The project involves the J. Craig Venter Institute of La Jolla, California and several other high-profile universities and research centers, including the Department of Biology of the University of Florence, directed by David Caramelli.

The Y chromosome, passed on to male descendants, is known to remain almost unchanged through 25 generations. Comparing the Y chromosome of today’s male relatives with that of their ancestors in ancient and modern burial sites would both verify the uninterrupted family line and certify Leonardo’s own Y chromosome marker.

Leonardo da Vinci’s family tree Credit Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato

The extensive study, published by the journal “Human Evolution (Pontecorboli Editore, Florence), documents with new certainty the continuous male line, from father to son, of the Da Vinci family (later Vinci), from progenitor Michele (born 1331) to grandson Leonardo (6th generation, born 1452) through to today — 21 generations in all, including five family branches — and identifies 14 living descendants.

Questions potentially probed once Leonardo’s DNA is confirmed include reasons behind his genius, information on his parents’ geographical origins, his physical prowess, premature aging, left-handedness, diet, health and any hereditary diseases, and his extraordinary vision, synaesthesia and other sensory perceptions.

The work fills gaps and corrects errors in previous genealogical research into Leonardo’s family, while offering new discoveries and family tree updates.

Comparison of biological data could also potentially help verify the authenticity of artwork and materials handled by Leonardo. The paper, “The New Genealogical Tree of the Da Vinci Family for Leonardo’s DNA” is published in the journal Human Evolution, DOI: 10.14673/HE2021121077.

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