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NRI Dr. Anshuman Razdan re-create likenesses of Washington


Arizona, Aug. 20, 200R
Ashok Shaw
NRI press

According to William Hermann of The Arizona Republic, before George Washington was the "father of our country," he was reportedly a handsome, strapping 19-year-old surveyor.

NRI (non-resident Indian) NRI Dr. Anshuman Razdan, Arizona State University researcher and anthropologist Jeffrey Schwartz went to work, no likeness of the young man existed.

Dr. Razdan and Schwartz, a University of Pittsburgh professor have brought together known data about Washington and fed it into computers in ASU's Partnership for Research in Spatial Modeling (PRISM) lab. They have begun to produce lifelike models of Washington, as a soldier at age 45, and finally as the first U.S. president taking the oath of office at age 57. advertisement

Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens officials approached Schwartz several years ago because they hoped he could help them create lifelike and life-size images of Washington for a permanent exhibition as part of a planned $85 million expansion of the first president's home. They want to exhibit figures of the young surveyor, the mature soldier and the president.

"We're going to give them likenesses head to toe," Schwartz said. "And since historical information is sometimes contradictory - some said he was about 6 feet tall, and some up to 6 feet 3 - we have much to do."

There are no portraits of the young Washington, and it wasn't until the future president was middle-aged that the portraits by Charles Wilson Peale were done. The famous Gilbert Stuart paintings were done in 1795, '96 and '97, when Washington was in his 60s.

The most valuable evidence of Washington's true appearance available to the team is the life mask French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon did in 1785, when Washington was 53. Houdon made a bust from the life mask and then a sculpture based upon sketches and the mask.

Evidence regarding Washington's true stature consists partly of garments authenticated as having been worn by him and not altered. The clothing suggested that Washington was about 6 feet 2 inches tall.

With this data, Schwartz and Razdan have been feeding information into PRISM software to "age" Washington taking him from the known appearance at age 53 to the speculative appearance at 57. Then, Schwartz said, "the tough work" began: turning back the clock to ages 45 and 19.

"That obviously has been the biggest challenge," Schwartz said. "But we have material to work with; we know that Washington began losing his teeth at age 24, and had lifelong dental problems, until at age 57 he had one tooth. We know how jaws are affected by tooth loss and can reconstruct the jaw of the younger man using that knowledge."

Razdan said that by scanning three-dimensional objects like the Washington life mask, bust and statue as well as dentures and reconstructions of his jaw, "we can use the collected data and do computer modeling" that will recreate the younger, middle-age and older man.

From the computer-generated models, artists then will create the three figures of Washington. Each of the three models will have a wax head and hands, because, Schwartz said, "wax is the most lifelike medium; it's translucent."

The other parts of each figure will be Styrofoam. The young Washington will be at work as a surveyor, the soldier will be on horseback and the president will be depicted taking the oath of office.

Schwartz said the figures will be "the most realistic depictions of Washington" yet attempted.

Schwartz said he is increasingly satisfied with the progress of the work, and is "more and more confident" that the team is arriving at true likenesses of Washington.

He and Razdan hope to have completed their work this summer.

"But you know how these things work," Schwartz said. "Someone says to you, 'Can you do this?' and you say, 'Well, sure.' Then you think about it and you freak."


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NRI Dr. Anshuman Razdan is the Director of the Partnership for Research In Stereo Modeling (PRISM) at ASU, with the goal of advancing visualization of 3D and higher dimensional data. His research interests include computer-aided geometric design (CAGD) and computer graphics, NURB curves and surface approximation techniques (for curves, surfaces, volumes, and scattered data, scalar field/volume visualization), and use of high-bandwidth networking for scientific visualization. He is a Karnal-born Kashmiri who likes playing cricket and golf when he is not too busy being a scientist. As a matter of fact, this father of four would love to "virtually" play around with Gavaskar or Pataudi after he is finished with George Washington.

Catherine J. Jun/The Arizona Republic
Jeffrey H. Schwartz is working with ASU to develop life-size models of George Washington at ages 19, 45 and 57.