Leone Battista Alberti (February 1404 - 25th April 1472), Italian painter, poet, linguist, philosopher, cryptographer, musician, architect, and general Renaissance polymath . He was born in Genoa, and died at Rome. His life was described in Giorgio Vasari's Vite. In Italy, his first name is usually spelled Leon.
Alberti made a variety of contributions to several fields:
In art, He is best known for his treatise De pictura (On painting) (1435) which contained the first scientific study of perspective. An Italian translation of De pictura (Della pittura) was published the year following the Latin version and was dedicated to Filippo Brunelleschi. He also wrote works on sculpture, De Statua.
He was so skilled in Latin verse that a comedy he wrote in his twentieth year, entitled Philodoxius, deceived the younger Aldus, who edited and published it as the genuine work of Lepidus.
He has been credited with being the actual author of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a strange fantasy novel, whose typographic qualities and illustrations have made it legendary as one of the most beautiful books ever printed.
In music, he was reputed one of the first organists of the age. He held the appointment of canon in the metropolitan church of Florence, and thus had leisure to devote himself to his favourite art.
In architecture he is generally regarded as one of the most devoted to restoring the formal language of classical architecture. At Rome he was employed by Pope Nicholas V in the restoration of the papal palace and of the restoration of the Roman aqueduct of Acqua Vergine, which debouched into a simple basin designed by Alberti, which was swept away later by the Baroque Trevi Fountain. At Mantua he designed the church of Sant'Andrea, and at Rimini the celebrated church of San Francesco. On a commission from the Rucellai family he designed the principal facade of the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, as well as the family palace in the Via della Scala, now known as the Palazzo Strozzi. He wrote an influential work on architecture, De Re Aedificatoria, which had been translated into Italian, French, Spanish and English by the 18th century. The most accurate English translation was by Giacomo Leoni in the early 18th century. In it he proposed new methods of fortification which became the standard defense for towns in the age of gunpowder, and dominated siege planning for hundreds of years.
Alberti was an accomplished cryptographer by the standard of his day, and invented both polyalphabetic ciphers and machine-assisted encryption using his cipher disk. The polyalphabetic cipher was, at least in principle, for it was not properly used for several hundred years, the most signifcant advance in cryptography since before Julius Caesar's time.
He was also interested in the drawing of maps and worked with the great cartographer Toscanelli.