By his 13th birthday Pedretti had taught himself to write left handed and read backwards as did Leonardo. Pedretti's first articles about Leonardo were published in 1944 at the age of 16. An article about Pedretti in the prestigious Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera of 31 January 1952, carried the headline: "At the age of twenty-three he knows everything about Leonardo." For the past 7 decades Carlo Pedretti has been regarded as the foremost authority on the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci. In his foreword for the book Carlo Pedretti - A Bibliography of His Work On Leonardo da Vinci And The Renaissance (1944-1984), compiled by Joyce Ludmer and art historian Kenneth Clark states: "He (Pedretti) is unquestionably the greatest Leonardo scholar of our time..."
Pedretti was born in Bologna. He was a professor of art history and Armand Hammer Chair in Leonardo Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is the author of more than 50 books and 700 essays and articles in various languages, on the many aspects of his specialty. He was a member of the ministerial committee for the National Edition of the Manuscripts and Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. The honors conferred upon Pedretti in Italy and abroad included the Gold Medal for Culture of the President of the Italian Republic in 1972, and in that same year, the Congressional Citation by the United States Congress. He was also awarded the honorary citizenship of the city of Arezzo (2001) and an honorary degree from the University of Ferrara (1991), Urbino (1998) and Milan (Catholic, 1999), as well as that of the University of Caen in France (2002). He was an honorary member of the ancient Academy of Euteleti to San Miniato al German and other prestigious organizations and institutions in Italy and abroad. He was also a regular of the cultural pages of the Corriere della Sera and de L'Osservatore Romano.
In 1992 he edited the International Exhibition "The Bridges of Leonardo", produced by the Cultural Excalibur Linen Lavorgnas in partnership with the City of Malmoe (Sweden). The exhibition was conceived as a cultural event in support of the engineering project Øresund Bridge.
In 1985, he attributed to Leonardo, a wax model (c.1506-08) of a bucking horse with rider, possibly an equestrian portrait of Charles d’Amboise, the French Governor of Milan from 1503-1511 and Leonardo's friend and patron. The wax statuette, including B&W photographs, were first published as a work by Leonardo in 1987, in Leonardo da Vinci-In The Collection of Her Majesty the Queen At Windsor Castle a special project entrusted to Pedretti.
On April 24, 2008 he was awarded honorary citizenship of the town of Vinci.
C. Pendretti (ed.), Leonardo Da Vinci on Painting: A Lost Book (Libro A) (Los Angeles, 1964).
C. Pedretti, Leonardo: A Study in Chronology and Style (Los Angeles, 1973).
C. Pedretti, Leonardo: The Machines (Florence, 1999) (transl. Catherine Frost).
C. Pedretti, Leonardo & Io (2008) (Biography in Italian)
- Getty Images: Carlo Pedretti
- McDonald, Lucy (2007-04-10). "And that's renaissance magic ..." the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-18.
- Bertelli, Carlo (November 19, 2005). "Due allievi non fanno un Leonardo" (in Italian). Il Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
- Henneberger, Melinda (2002-04-21). "The Leonardo Cover-Up". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-18.
- "E' morto Carlo Pedretti, il più grande esperto di Leonardo Da Vinci". La Nazione (in Italian). 2018-01-05. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
- Kendall, Rebecca. "In Memoriam: Carlo Pedretti, 89, art historian and da Vinci scholar". UCLA Newsroom. Retrieved 2018-03-18.
- Leonardo da Vinci: anatomical drawings from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, exhibition catalogue fully online as PDF from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contains an essay by Carlo Pedretti