Rebuilding George Washington

According to The Arizona Republic, American researchers have created realistic faces of George Washington by using 3-D scanning, forensics technology and software. They started by scanning a bust of the first U.S. President when he was 53 and developed a special software with the help of an anthropologist to build realistic models of his face at different ages. Once the digital images were created and validated, a New York studio built statues of George Washington as a 19-year-old surveyor, a commander in chief at age 45 and taking the oath of office at Federal Hall at the age of 57. These statues can now be seen at the George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. And the technology behind this re-creation can be used on other famous characters.

According to The Arizona Republic, American researchers have created realistic faces of George Washington by using 3-D scanning, forensics technology and software. They started by scanning a bust of the first U.S. President when he was 53 and developed a special software with the help of an anthropologist to build realistic models of his face at different ages. Once the digital images were created and validated, a New York studio built statues of George Washington as a 19-year-old surveyor, a commander in chief at age 45 and taking the oath of office at Federal Hall at the age of 57. These statues can now be seen at the George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. And the technology behind this re-creation can be used on other famous characters.

Before going further, below are images of the three reconstructed faces of the first U.S. President when he was 19-year-old, 45-year-old and 57-year-old (Credit: Jeffrey Schwartz). Schwartz is a forensic anthropology professor at the University of Pittsburgh who helped creating these faces. He wrote a long article for Scientific American in 2006 about this project, "Putting a face on the first president" (PDF format, 8 pages, 585 KB) These pictures were extracted from this article.

George Washington's faces at the ages of 19, 45 and 57

After the heads of George Washington were ready, the researchers had to reconstruct the body. And you can now see the results at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate on this page about the "Reconstructing George Washington Gallery." Below are reduced pictures of George Washington as a 19-year-old surveyor, a commander in chief at age 45 and taking the oath of office at Federal Hall at the age of 57 (Credit: George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate).

George Washington's statues at the ages of 19, 45 and 57

This project was led by Anshuman Razdan, a member of PRISM (Partnership for Research In Spatial Modeling) and an Affiliate Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU). For him and his nine-member team, "this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

So how did the team work? Here are some quotes from The Arizona Republic article.

Examining the first president's skeleton wasn't an option. He is buried at Mount Vernon, and the estate didn't want an exhumation. Instead, they relied on historical records and existing images. They steeped themselves in history by reading books and documents and traveled to examine Washington's dentures, clothing, a terra-cotta bust and a life-size statue.
Razdan's team used a breadbox-size scanner to capture digital 3-D images of a mask and bust made when Washington was 53. [...] Once the scans were done, it was time to manipulate the data to show Washington at different ages. This was challenging because he lost his teeth during his life, which altered his jaw and face. He was known to crack walnuts with his teeth, which exacerbated his problems.

You should read the original article to discover the main problem the team encountered. George Washington "was known to crack walnuts with his teeth," and he lost his first teeth in his early 20s. Apparently, he had only two lower teeth left when he was 53. Obviously, this "altered his jaw and face," but the researchers found a way to restore his appearance.

Finally, below are some more links about this project.

Sources: Anne Ryman, The Arizona Republic, February 16, 2007; and various other websites

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