The following quote is frequently attributed by the internet to the famous 15th-16th century polymath Leonardo da Vinci:

Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.

It's well known that Leonardo was fascinated by flight, but true heavier-than-air flight wasn't achieved until centuries after his death. Did he really say this? Or is it, like so many famous quotes on the internet, a misattribution?

  • An unsourced quotation on the internet? Why would you give it a moment's credence?
    – user14111
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 20:48
  • The earliest instance I could find with Google books was 1950. Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 11:27
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    @kimchilover Spagirl's answer suggests 1965 as the origin year. If you did find a 1950 result, did it involve John Secondari in some way?
    – muru
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 3:17
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    I don't know: it was to a "Popular science" article behind a paywall, and since GBooks is notoriously bad at dates of journal articles, maybe think the 1950 date is bogus. Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 5:19

1 Answer 1


As difficult as it is to prove a negative, the Airfacts Journal seems to make a convincing case of identifying the actual author.

The site’s writer has been dubious about the quote for many years and carried out much reading of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and recorded writings trying to find the line, despairing that it may be in some largely unpublished collection of private letters or similar. Eventually his efforts, and those of others, were rewarded:

Well, finally the mystery has been solved, thanks to several patient detectives connected via the internet, using the vast search tools of Google Books and other electronic storehouses. People reached out to book authors and asked where ideas and narrative came from, while others sat through dreadful old copies of films. It all came together in the nerdy discussion page of the Wikiquote entry for Leonardo de Vinci, and now we can reveal the author was… drum roll please… John Hermes Secondari. An American TV writer. In 1965.

The article goes on to describe Secondari’s career and a particular project he was involved in, as television series called ‘the Saga of Western Man’:

One of the episodes of The Saga of Western Man was “I, Leonardo Da Vinci.” The credits state it was written, produced and narrated by John H. Secondari, with “the voice of Leonardo da Vinci” played by Fredric March. Its copyright date is 1965 and it was released in 1966 by American Broadcasting. At 16 minutes and 21 seconds into the second reel, after the off-screen Leonardo narration urges people to build his flying machines, claiming after any crash “the hurts will be slight,” over gentle visuals of a wheat field panning up into a clear blue sky, the voice says:

And once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you would return.

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    Nice answer and great source, with a whole load of extra info about the search. It also cites Marissa De Simone Day, Director of Exhibits and Learning at The Leonardo Museum of Creativity and Innovation [...] part of the creation of their outstanding Flight exhibit. [...] “as far as we know, the quote originated in the script of an educational film by John Secondari which is titled I, Leonardo da Vinci. The script is inspired by Leonardo’s notes in his codexes and narrated as though by Leonardo.” and includes some info on how "would return" morphed to "long to return".
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 16:39
  • @Rand_al’_thor Cheers, my only remaining doubt is whether the question or answer quite count as being on-topic for ‘literature’ ;-)
    – Spagirl
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 9:15

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