Once you’ve spent even a little time in the laser scanning industry, you come across the work of Martin Isenburg. His LAStools and LASzip, freely available to anyone who’d like to use them through rapidlasso, are foundational to the use of point clouds and making scan data available to those without the most powerful computers or most sophisticated software. His unwavering focus on standardization and open access to processing tools was incredibly influential in mainstreaming laser scanning and reality capture.
In similar fashion, he was a tireless advocate for the democratization of scan data throughout the world, working in his fashion to get taxpayer-funded government data freely released for public use. Often, it was in pursuit of preservation efforts and other projects designed to make the world a better and more equitable place. He was talking about reducing the carbon footprint of computing before nearly anyone I knew. Martin genuinely seemed to be able to see the future sometimes,
He could also be acerbic and blunt. Like a lot of people with brains that run hot, he was often described as eccentric by people being diplomatic. He even once got a bunch of outlets to reprint an April Fools’ joke that poked fun at a major geospatial company (the release remains up on the web on some sites to this day). There were probably only about 100 people in the world at the time that would even get the joke.
But in my early days in the laser scanning industry he was very kind to me and I saw him be incredibly generous with his time and expertise. He had an enormous heart. He was certainly generous with us here at SPAR and the International Lidar Mapping Forum, where he frequently spoke, frequently provided us with opinion and expertise for articles and podcasts, and where he served on advisory boards and as an expert bullshit detector.
Sadly, as he shared with the world in his last public writing, he also suffered from mental illness, a condition that was exacerbated by the pandemic and isolation. His death, the news of which began to circulate earlier this month, is a tragic and senseless loss that leaves our little corner of the world a lesser place.
Please join us in remembering Martin Isenburg for the incredible contributions he made to laser scanning and reality capture. His legacy will live on in those who continue to use his tools and advance his goals of efficiently bringing reality to digital life.