Advanced Imaging Reveals Secrets of 1491 Map Columbus May Have Used
Cultural Artifact and Document Imaging

Jun. 12, 2015
Devin Coldewey

A map from 1491 that Christopher Columbus may have consulted is proving to be a historical treasure trove. The map, created by German cartographer Henricus Martellus toward the end of the 15th century and now housed at Yale, has faded and blurred over time, but researchers have managed to pry out its secrets with a technique called multispectral imaging.

The Martellus map as it appears to the naked eye (top) and through multispectral imaging (bottom). Yale University / Rochester Institute of Technology

By photographing the map illuminated by a series of specific bandwidths of light and then comparing and overlapping the results, hidden details emerged that have cartographers reeling. There are descriptions of unknown peoples (clearly fanciful, but still interesting), a greater extent of Africa mapped than expected from the period, and details of Japan that suggest that Columbus likely consulted this map or one like it when preparing for his famous transatlantic voyage.

About 80 percent of the text obscured by fading has been recovered, according to the Rochester Institute of Technology's Roger Easton, one of the researchers. "We're still finding things," he said in a news release. "One day last week we pulled out 11 characters. The next day, we got several words."

When the project is deemed complete, the maps will be made available via the website of Yale's Beinecke Library

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Original Source: NBC News

Hidden secrets of Yale’s 1491 world map revealed via multispectral imaging
Cultural Artifact and Document Imaging

CIS Professor Roger Easton quoted

Jun. 11, 2015
Mike Cummings

This map of the world drawn by Henricus Martellus in about 1491 was donated to Yale in 1962. Its faded condition (shown above) has stymied researchers for decades. The multispectral image of the map (below) reveals text and details invisible to the naked eye.


Henricus Martellus, a German cartographer working in Florence in the late 15th century, produced a highly detailed map of the known world. According to experts, there is strong evidence that Christopher Columbus studied this map and that it influenced his thinking before his fateful voyage.

Martellus’ map arrived at Yale in 1962, the gift of an anonymous donor. Scholars at the time hailed the map’s importance and argued that it could provide a missing link to the cartographic record at the dawn of the Age of Discovery. However, five centuries of fading and scuffing had rendered much of the map’s text and other details illegible or invisible, limiting its research value.

A team of researchers and imaging specialists is recovering the lost information through a multispectral-imaging project. Their work is yielding discoveries about how the world was viewed over 500 years ago.

The multispectral images show previously lost details in Martellus' depiction Africa that suggest the German cartographer used data from African sources, not European explorations.

Last August the five-member team visited the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, where for years the Martellus map hung from a wall outside the reading room. (It was recently moved to the Yale University Art Gallery for storage while the library is under renovation.) The team, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, photographed the map in 12 reflective colors, including several frequencies beyond the range of visible light. Those images were processed and analyzed with high-tech software.

“We’ve recovered more information than we dared to hope for,” says Chet Van Duzer, a map historian who is leading the project.

The map, which dates to about 1491 and depicts the Earth’s surface from the Atlantic in the west to Japan in the east, is dotted with descriptions in Latin of various regions and peoples. A text box visible over northern Asia describes the people of “Balor” who live without wine or wheat and subsist on deer meat.

Van Duzer says the new images reveal many such descriptions. For instance, text uncovered in southern Asia describe the “Panotii” people as having ears so large that they could use them as sleeping bags.

Newly revealed text in eastern Asian is borrowed from “The Travels of Marco Polo.” From the discrepancies in wording, Van Duzer has determined that Martellus used a manuscript version of the travelogue, not the sole printed edition in Latin that existed at the time.

Perhaps the most interesting revelations, say the researchers, concern southern Africa. By studying visible river systems and legible place names, Van Duzer had previously determined that Martellus based his depiction of the region on the Egyptus N[MC1] ovelo [BL2] map, which survives in three manuscripts of Ptolemy’s “Geography.” The Egyptus Novelo used geographical data from native Africans, not European explorations. It is thought that the map was based on information shared by three Ethiopian delegates to the Council of Florence in 1441.

A text box in the Indian Ocean warns of the orca, "a sea monster that is like the sun when it shines, whose form can hardly be described, except that its skin is soft and its body huge."

The new images show that the Martellus map’s depiction of southern Africa extends further east than the known versions of the Egyptus Novelo do, suggesting that the German cartographer was working from a more complete version of the map that showed the eastern reaches of the continent.

“It’s a seminal and tremendously important document of African mapping by the people of Africa, in this case preserved by a western source,” says Van Duzer.

The new images also have helped Van Duzer to determine how the Martellus map influenced later cartographers. The map is similar to a world map drawn by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1507, which was the first map to apply the name “America” to the New World. The multispectral images show many of the same texts on Martellus’ map in the same locations as on the 1507 map, confirming that the Martellus map was an essential source for Waldseemüller, says Van Duzer. At the same time, he notes, the cartographers’ works are not identical: Waldseemüller borrowed most of his place names in coastal Africa from a different map.

“It puts you in the mapmaker’s workshop,” says Van Duzer. “It’s easy to imagine Waldseemüller at his desk consulting various sources.”

This text found in northern Africa says "Here there are large wildernesses in which there are lions, large leopards, and many other animals different from ours."

Waldseemüller was not alone in contemplating Martellus’ work. Van Duzer says it is nearly certain that Columbus examined the Martellus map, or a map very similar to it.

Writings by Columbus’s son Ferdinand indicate that the explorer had expected to find Japan where Martellus depicted it, and with the same orientation, far off the Asian coast, and with its main axis running north and south. No other surviving maps from the period show Japan with that configuration, says Van Duzer.

In addition, the journal of one of Columbus’s crewmembers, who believed the expedition was sailing along island chains in southern Asia, describes the region much as it is depicted in the Martellus map.

Revealing the map’s faded details provides a more complete picture of Columbus’s perception of geography, notes the historian.

“It’s always interesting to learn how people conceived the world at that period in history,” says Van Duzer. “The late 15th century was a time when people’s image of the world was changing so rapidly. Even within Martellus’s own career, what he was showing of the world expanded dramatically.”

The discoveries are the result of painstaking effort. The multispectral images are processed using special software that finds the precise combination of spectral bands to enhance the visibility of text. The work involves a lot of experimentation.

Text in the southern Asia portion of the map describes the "Panotii" people, who purportedly had ears that were so large they could use them as sleeping bags.

The map’s text was written in a variety of pigments, which complicates the task of recovering lost letters because individual pigments respond differently to light.

“We’re still finding things,” says Professor Roger Easton of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at Rochester Institute of Technology. “We’re focusing on these difficult cartouches and text blocks. One day last week we pulled out 11 characters. The next day, we got several words.”

Easton estimates the team has uncovered about 80% of recoverable text. Some of the text is entirely invisible before processing. The team is currently at work uncovering details in the region around Java.

Once the project is completed, the new images will be made available to scholars and the public on the Beinecke Library’s website.

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Original Source: YaleNews

2015 Alpha Sigma Lambda Honorary Society recipients

Thirty-seven RIT students recognized for activities, scholarship and leadership

May. 20, 2015
Greg Livadas


Blu Bloat

The 2015 Alpha Sigma Lambda Honorary Society members with RIT President Bill Destler.

More than three dozen graduating Rochester Institute of Technology seniors were inducted into the Alpha Sigma Lambda Honorary Society on Monday night at a dinner hosted by RIT President Bill Destler.

“Alpha Sigma Lambda is an event that celebrates the best and the brightest,” said Heath Boice-Pardee, associate vice president for Student Affairs. “They are students who achieve high academic success and found a way to balance leadership both inside and outside of RIT.”

Students were able to invite a mentor, often an RIT faculty or staff member who helped them complete their degrees.

Alpha Sigma Lambda was founded in 1964 to honor students who represent the guiding principles of ASL: Activities, Scholarship and Leadership. Recipients must be a senior in an undergraduate program and have at least a 3.4 cumulative GPA.

Nominees are judged on the basis of scholarship, active participation and contributions in activities, and leadership in academic and co-curricular student activities. Service to the community is also considered.

The students are:

College of Science

  • Rose Rustowicz, an imaging science major from Amherst, N.Y.
  • Juliana Shaw, a biochemistry major from Hilton, N.Y.
  • Sarah Wang, a biotechnology and molecular science major from Plattsburgh, N.Y.
  • Chelsea Weidman, a biochemistry major from Rochester, N.Y.

American University in Kosovo

  • Jeta Aliu, an applied arts and sciences major from Prishtina, Kosovo.
  • Blendrit Elezaj, an applied arts and sciences major from Prishtina, Kosovo.

College of Applied Science and Technology

  • Ethan Ausburn, an electrical mechanical engineering technology major from Ocoee, Fla.
  • Rachael Dufford, a packaging science major from Glen Gardner, N.J.
  • Sara Mikulas, an environmental sustainability, health and safety major from Garden City, N.Y.
  • Kiana Richards, a packaging science major from Columbia, Md.
  • Morgan Scoyne, an applied arts and sciences major from Drumbo, Ontario, Canada.

Kate Gleason College of Engineering

  • Samantha Abraham, a chemical engineering student from Agawam, Mass.
  • Caitlin Donovan, a chemical engineering major from Whitesboro, N.Y.
  • Daniel Miller, a mechanical engineering major from Schnecksville, Pa.

B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences

  • Claire Bernard, a new media interactive development major from Albany, Ga.
  • Emma Nelson, a software engineering student from Moline, Ill.

College of Imaging Arts and Sciences

  • Ben Gordon, an industrial design major from Rochester, N.Y.
  • Sarah Ann Jump, a photojournalism major from Cordova, Md.
  • Rachel Nicholson, a graphic design major from University Heights, Ohio.
  • Nora Rogers, a film and animation major from South Burlington, Vt.
  • Yekaterina Satanina, a film and animation major from Hamden, Conn.
  • Paige Satterly, a visual media major from Robins, Iowa.
  • Mariah Texidor, a professional photographic illustration major from Lodi, N.J.
  • Caitlin Williams, a biomedical photographic communications major from Moriah, N.Y.

College of Health Sciences and Technology

  • Kyle Burke, a biomedical sciences major from Chelmsford, Mass.
  • Kimberley Duru, a biomedical sciences major from Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Daniel Malcaus, a nutrition management major from Rockaway Beach, N.Y.
  • Patrick McMullan, a biomedical sciences major from Easton, Pa.
  • Rebecca Nolan, a biomedical sciences major from Media, Pa.
  • Alyssa Ratajczak, a biomedical sciences major from Cheektowaga, N.Y.

College of Liberal Arts

  • Brandon Dziedzic, a psychology major from Sloan, N.Y.
  • William Gerken, a political science and journalism major from Williamsville, N.Y.
  • Zoe Gordon, a political science major from New York, N.Y.
  • Tessa Riley, a psychology major from Madison, N.J.

Saunders College of Business

  • Alexandra Binnington, a finance major from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • Michael Hayes, a finance major from Hamburg, N.Y.
  • David Weinberger, a new media marketing, media arts and technology major from Havertown, Pa.
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Original Source: University News

Imaging Science Undergraduate's AMA Reaches Reddit Front Page
Student Stories
Cultural Artifact and Document Imaging

Fourth-year student Kevin Sacca's "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) about multispectral imaging of historical documents proved highly popular on social network reddit

Jun. 16, 2015

Imaging Science senior Kevin Sacca is spending his summer working with Dr. Roger Easton Jr. capturing and processing multispectral images of historic documents. In response to public curiosity about the nature of his work, Sacca set up an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") interview session on social networking website reddit. The session proved to be wildly popular, racking up over 350 comments and even making it to the front page of reddit. 

You can read the full thread, titled "I am a scientist who utilizes multispectral imaging to recover and preserve information from old documents. AMA!", or check out highlights from AMA

Two Imaging Science undergraduates members of winning team at first annual GEOINT Hackathon
Student Stories

The winners receive $15,000 and free registration to USGIF’s GEOINT 2015 Symposium. 

Jun. 15, 2015

Image courtesy OGSystems (OGS) ‏@ogsystems 

Imaging Science undergraduates Dan Simon (far left) and Briana Neuberger (fourth from right) are members of the winning team at the first annual GEOINT Hackathon, hele June 12-14. From the event website: "The goal is to bring together and introduce both non-GEOINT and GEOINT-savvy coders and data scientists to interesting problems requiring inventive coding solutions. In addition to enabling participation from the non-GEOINT coding world, the end result will be a working code base that performs a specifically requested set of functions or provides answers as outputs."

Read More>

See more updates from throughout the event on Twitter with the hashtag #GEOINTHackathon.

Program on high-resolution imaging project discussed
Remote Sensing

Colin Axel gave a visual demonstration of the capabilities of computerized technology to analyze high resolution digital photographs of areas impacted by a natural disaster. The results are then provided to emergency responders.

May. 7, 2015
David Luitweiler


Speaker Colin Axel gives his presentation on the high resolution imaging project.Speaker Colin Axel gives his presentation on the high resolution imaging project. Club President-Elect John Summers is in the foreground. Submitted by Dave Luitweiler.


Colin Axel, a 2010 graduate of Victor High School and Rochester Institute of Technology and currently in his third year of a Ph.D program at RIT, presented a program to the Victor-Farmington Rotary Club on April 22 concerning the topic of high resolution imaging.

Axel’s presentation — “Automated Natural Disaster Analysis Using Remote Sensing” — concerned a project he is working on at RIT involving the use of digital imaging to assist those responsible for responding to natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, etc. The project is being funded by the World Bank and involves the U.S. Department of Transportation.

RIT is working on one facet of the project while Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is working in a coordinated fashion with another aspect of the work.

Using a computerized slide program, Axel gave a visual demonstration of the capabilities of computerized technology to analyze high resolution digital photographs of areas impacted by a natural disaster. The results are then provided to emergency responders.Colin and the RIT team used digital images taken from an aerial platform of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti as part of their research in developing their program. Using advanced technology, researchers can use the 3-D images in a myriad of ways to determine damage to buildings, the depth of flood waters, damage to infrastructures, the volume of debris, the status or location of usable roads, etc. This information can be provided quickly to those responding to the disaster, usually in days rather than weeks.

Axel outlined three items that are most important to those responsible at the site of the disaster: where do people need the most help, how many people are impacted and what roads are accessible for responding to the problem. The use of digital image technology can supply answers.

(Click link below to read the rest of this story, which regards club matters and is unrelated to Colin's talk.)   

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Original Source: Victor Post

Sunday, June 7, 2015 - 15:30 - 9th Annual DC-area Alumni Reception

Vinifera Bistro
Sunday, June 7, 2015 - 15:30


Date: 6/7/2015
Time: 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM

Cost: $10

Location: Vinifera Bistro


Join your fellow alumni and favorite faculty at the 9th Annual Greater D.C. Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (CIS) Reunion. Our department members coming to see you are: 

  • Dr. Dave Messinger, Director of the Center for Imaging Science 

  • Joe Pow, Associate Director of the Center for Imaging Science 

  • Dr. Jie Qiao, Associate Professor

  • Bethany Choate '06, Senior Associate for Outreach and Communications

  • Nathan Dileas, First-year BS student 

  • Makayla Roof, First-year BS student

Listen to RIT’s exciting developments in CIS and what the future holds for current RIT students and alumni. Share your accomplishments with us and reminisce with your colleagues on the beautiful Vinifera Bistro patio. Heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks will be served. Guest fee is just $10 and space is limited so register today!

RSVP by May 27, 2015

Contact: Tamra Werner, 585-475-5979,


First year CIS graduate student co-author on a Nature magazine cover article
Astronomy and Space Science

Emily Berkson is co-author on article titled "Curtain eruptions from Enceladus’ south-polar terrain"

May. 8, 2015

About the cover: Simulated uniform curtain eruptions overlain on Cassini image N1637461416 adapted to make the erupted material visible. Images taken by the Cassini probe have revealed large fractures bounded by rifts towards the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. These features, popularly known as ‘tiger stripes’, reach higher temperatures than their surroundings and are thought to be the sources of observed jets of water vapour and icy particles. Joseph Spitale et al. compare Cassini images with simulated curtains of material erupting from Enceladus’ south-polar terrain to produce detailed maps of the emissions at various times. Much of the eruptive activity can be explained by broad, curtain-like eruptions, many of which were probably misinterpreted previously as discrete jets. Phantom jets in the synthesized curtains correspond closely to regions of enhanced brightness in the Cassini images. Cover: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Planetary Science Institute.

View Article ►

Publication abstract: Observations of the south pole of the Saturnian moon Enceladus revealed large rifts in the south-polar terrain, informally called ‘tiger stripes’, named Alexandria, Baghdad, Cairo and Damascus Sulci. These fractures have been shown to be the sources of the observed jets of water vapour and icy particles1234 and to exhibit higher temperatures than the surrounding terrain56. Subsequent observations have focused on obtaining close-up imaging of this region to better characterize these emissions. Recent work7 examined those newer data sets and used triangulation of discrete jets3 to produce maps of jetting activity at various times. Here we show that much of the eruptive activity can be explained by broad, curtain-like eruptions. Optical illusions in the curtain eruptions resulting from a combination of viewing direction and local fracture geometry produce image features that were probably misinterpreted previously as discrete jets. We present maps of the total emission along the fractures, rather than just the jet-like component, for five times during an approximately one-year period in 2009 and 2010. An accurate picture of the style, timing and spatial distribution of the south-polar eruptions is crucial to evaluating theories for the mechanism controlling the eruptions.

Full details:

Curtain eruptions from Enceladus’ south-polar terrain

Joseph N. SpitaleTerry A. HurfordAlyssa R. RhodenEmily E. Berkson & Symeon S. Platts

Affiliations  |  Contributions  |  Corresponding author

Nature 521, 57–60 (07 May 2015)  |  doi:10.1038/nature14368

Received 05 August 2014  |  Accepted 27 February 2015  |  Published online 07 May 2015

View Article ►

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Original Source: Nature

Imaging Science student one of four RIT students to win prestigious Goldwater Scholarships
Cultural Artifact and Document Imaging

Students from College of Science and Kate Gleason College of Engineering recognized

May. 4, 2015
Susan Gawlowicz

Four undergraduate students at Rochester Institute of Technology have won awards from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

Elizabeth Bondi, Selene Chew, Tyler Godat and Emily Holz will each receive $7,500 for the 2015–2016 academic year. They were among the 260 award winners chosen from 1,206 nominees.

The Goldwater Scholarship is based on academic merit and regarded as one of the most prestigious undergraduate honors. It is awarded to students committed to pursuing careers in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.

Bondi, from Dansville, N.Y., is a third-year student in imaging science at RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and a member of the RIT Honors Program. She works with Roger Easton, professor in RIT’s Center for Imaging Science, to recover erased and overwritten text in historical documents using image-processing techniques.

She automated a processing technique that was applied to the Codex Vercellensis, one of the earliest manuscript translations of the Gospels from Greek to Latin from the 4th century C.E. Bondi is currently working on the 15th century Martellus World Map. She has twice presented her research at the RIT Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Bondi also completed a co-op at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She worked on the team that will determine a landing site for the Mars 2020 rover.

In addition to the RIT Honors Program, Bondi is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, the Imaging Science Club and the Optical Society of America Student Chapter.

Bondi plans to pursue a Ph.D. in imaging science or computer vision, with the goal of conducting research in computer vision and teaching at the university level.

Chew, a resident of Ithaca, N.Y., is a third-year student in the computational mathematics program in RIT’s School of Mathematical Sciences, a member of the RIT Honors Program and a board member of PiRIT, the RIT Association of Student Mathematicians and Statisticians. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in applied mathematics and to work on computer vision research questions in industry.

Chew and her mentor, Nathan Cahill, professor in the RIT School of Mathematical Sciences, explore techniques for improving algorithms that cluster similar points and classify regions of hyperspectral imagery. She received an RIT Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship last year and presented at the university’s annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Last June, Chew presented a poster with Cahill at her first international conference, the IEEE Workshop on Hyperspectral Image and Signal Processing: Evolution in Remote Sensing, or WHISPERS, in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Chew has spent her spring semester abroad through the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics in Budapest, Hungary. She studied number theory, abstract algebra, and hypergraph theory/combinatorics, as well as the Hungarian language and Hungarian math education.

Godat, from Greensboro, N.C., is a third-year student and double major in physics and applied mathematics in RIT’s College of Science. For nearly three years, Godat has explored theoretical research in the field of cavity optomechanics with his mentors, Mishkat Bhattacharya, assistant professor in RIT’s School of Physics and Astronomy, and postdoctoral researcher Brandon Rodenberg.

Godat is a member of RIT UNICEF and the Society of Physics Students at RIT. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics.

Holz, a resident of Cottage Grove, Minn., is a fourth-year student in the biomedical engineering program in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering. She has enjoyed a variety of undergraduate research experiences through RIT’s co-op program. She worked with Kara Maki, assistant professor in RIT’s School of Mathematical Sciences, modeling the settling dynamics of a contact lens on the eye, a topic of interest to Bausch & Lomb.

Following her research on contact lenses with Maki, Holz spent two summers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Her research focused on finding less expensive methods to fabricate multispectral MRI contrast agents developed by her research group. While on another co-op at LSI Solutions, Holz worked on laparoscopic cardiac surgical devices.

She is currently on co-op at Genentech in San Francisco. Holz works with members of the department of early stage pharmaceutical development on novel methods to stabilize antibodies in formulations

When not on co-op, she is secretary for the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society and climbs for the RIT rock climbing team.

Holz hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in targeted drug delivery.

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Original Source: University News

Distinguished physicist talks about imaging detectors and cell phones at RIT May 6
SPIE/OSA Student Chapter
Detector Research

Talk is free and open to the public

Apr. 27, 2015
Susan Gawlowicz

Tiny cameras in cell phones don’t work by magic. The pursuit of ever-smaller cameras requires scaled-down optical systems that can affect image quality.

Distinguished physicist Christopher Dainty will visit Rochester Institute of Technology for a talk about ideal imaging detectors and limitations of imaging systems in cell phones.

Dainty, professor at University College London Institute of Ophthalmology, will present “Imaging Science and Cell-Phone Cameras” at 6 p.m. on May 6 in the Carlson Auditorium in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. The talk is free and open to the public.

“Every optics student knows that bigger optical systems have the potential to form higher resolution and higher signal-to-noise images, yet market pressures drive cell phone cameras to be smaller and smaller,” Dainty said. “I shall discuss some of the fundamental limits of imaging systems that affect image quality in small cameras.”

Dainty is a fellow and past president of the Optical Society of America, SPIE (an international professional society for optics and photonics technology), the Institute of Physics and the European Optical Society. His research explores optical imaging, scattering and propagation, especially related to imaging and metrology and the eye.

The RIT SPIE/OSA Student Chapter is sponsoring the lecture.

For more information, go to the SPIE/OSA Student Chapter or contact Javier Concha, Ph.D. candidate and SPIE/OSA Student Chapter secretary, at

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Original Source: University News