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Gregory Heyworth - University of Rochester. Rochester, NY, US

Gregory Heyworth

Associate Professor of English and Textual Science; Director, Lazarus Project | University of Rochester


Gregory Heyworth is a textual scientist who works on new ways to read ancient manuscripts and maps using spectral imaging technology.

Areas of Expertise (4)

spectral imaging

Ancient Maps

Ancient Manuscripts

Textual science



Gregory Heyworth Publication




TED Talk: How I'm discovering the secrets of ancient texts | Gregory Heyworth  TEDxUM: How to read an invisible classic | Gregory Heyworth |




Gregory Heyworth is a medievalist and founder of the discipline of textual science, a combination of the traditional scholarly skills of paleography, codicology and bibliography, with material-, imaging-, and data-science. With secondary appointments in History and Computer Science, Heyworth's research lies primarily in the recovery of damaged manuscripts and cultural heritage objects using spectral imaging and machine learning, as well as in the editing of texts, the history of the book and of cartography, and classical influence upon insular and continental romance and satire of the Middle Ages. More colloquially, he is interested in finding ways to read books no one has read before, and in teaching others to do the same.

As director of the Lazarus Project, he and his students have worked to recover manuscripts, maps, and paintings in collections around the world and to make them available to scholars and the public. Current initiatives include the Vercelli Schoolroom Project, the Dresden Baroque Music Project, the 1492 Martin Behaim Globe in Nuremberg, the Laja Alta Bronze Age Cave Paintings in Jimena de la Frontera, Spain, and the Icons of Svanetia in Mestia, Georgia.

Education (1)

Princeton University: Ph.D

Selected Media Appearances (10)

How imaging technology is recovering damaged texts and rewriting history

NPR, All Things Considered  radio


Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Found in Translation Using spectral imaging, Gregory Heyworth can bring new life to old manuscripts. He is able to decipher texts that haven't been read in hundreds of years, and in the process, change history. Gregory Heyworth is an associate professor of English at the University of Rochester.

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First Known Star Map Found Hidden in Ancient Parchment in Egypt

Newsweek  print


Pages were later re-analyzed by researchers at the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, the Lazarus Project, and the University of Rochester.

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U of R Researchers Study Lost Text in Centuries-old Manuscript

Spectrum News  tv


Scholars at the University of Rochester received a FedEx package recently, containing very rare — and very fragile — content: a 500-year-old book sent by the Smithsonian Institution. Work to uncover what's hidden inside may be even rarer than the manuscript itself. In a second floor lab at the U of R’s Rush Rhees Library, lost treasures are being recovered. “The moment of discovery is always incredibly exciting,” said Gregory Heyworth, associate professor of English. “It's kind of like Christmas, but for the ages." Heyworth is also director of The Lazarus Project, a nonprofit dedicated to recovering lost manuscripts, maps, and other cultural heritage objects.

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New Ways to Use Old Maps

Directions Magazine  online


That’s the type of question that fuels The Lazarus Project, a research endeavor now based at the University of Rochester and directed by Gregory Heyworth. By using camera sensors that can capture light from wave lengths both smaller (ultraviolet) and larger (infrared) than the human eye can detect, Heyworth and his colleagues combine bands to produce new multispectral images of early manuscripts and other historical documents that allow us to see what had been otherwise obscured for centuries. Cartographic historian Chet Van Duzer oversees the Lazarus missions that deal with maps and globes, and he has worked closely with Roger Easton, an imaging scientist at the Rochester Institute of Technology, to produce the enhanced images of the Martellus Map, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Multispectral Imaging Brings Lost Torah Text to Light

Photonics Media  


A University of Rochester professor uses different wavelengths of light to photograph and analyze cultural artifacts using digital imagery to salvage objects, such as the Hebrew Torah, whose legibility has deteriorated over time. Associate professor Gregory Heyworth, who calls his research specialty “textual science,” is the force behind the Lazarus Project, a multispectral imaging group and nonprofit organization he established to keep historical artifacts from being lost to time.

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Saving the lost text of a Torah scroll

Phys.org  print


Lights—red, blue, green, orange—flash in Gregory Heyworth's multispectral imaging lab in the University of Rochester's Rush Rhees Library, strategically tucked beside Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. Under the lights and the lens of a multispectral imaging system is a Torah scroll, probably dating to around 1900. Torah scrolls are long rolls of parchment, each suspended between two wooden rollers and containing the handwritten Hebrew text of the Torah. Now entrusted to the congregation of the Temple Society of Concord in Syracuse, New York, the scroll once belonged to a European congregation—until the Holocaust.

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Turning the gears of an early modern search engine

Newscenter University of Rochester  online


The medieval studies library is now home to a custom-made, full-size book wheel, a kind of rotating bookshelf that was the brainchild of 16th-century Italian military engineer Agostino Ramelli. The device is a “Ferris wheel for old tomes,” says Gregory Heyworth, an associate professor of English and a specialist in textual science. The core of what he calls its “fanciful design” is a system of epicyclic gears in which one gear rotates around another—like a planetary system—with the device’s shelves maintaining a constant 45-degree incline that hold the books securely as the giant wheel turns.

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Buried by the Ash of Vesuvius, These Scrolls Are Being Read for the First Time in Millennia

Smithsonian Magazine  print


Driving south from the stone archways and quadrangles of Oxford, the road soon cuts through flat green fields reaching to the horizon. On the day I visited, fork-tailed red kites hovered high in the blue July sky. After 15 or so miles a sprawling campus of low gray buildings came into view. At first, it resembled an ordinary industrial park, until I noticed the names of the roads: Fermi, Rutherford, Becquerel, all giants of 19th- and 20th-century physics. Behind a wire fence a huge, silver dome, more than a quarter-mile in circumference, rose from the grass like a giant flying saucer. This was Diamond Light Source, and Seales was waiting inside. He'd brought a speck of charred papyrus from one of the Herculaneum scrolls he studied a decade earlier. The ink on it, he had found, contained a trace of lead. In Grenoble, direct X-ray imaging of the scrolls had not been enough to detect the ink. But when you fire hugely powerful X-rays through lead, the metal emits electromagnetic radiation, or “fluoresces,” at a characteristic frequency. Seales hoped to pick up that signal with a detector placed beside the fragment, which was specially calibrated to capture photons at lead's characteristic frequency. Successfully reading Herculaneum scrolls could trigger a new “renaissance of classical antiquity,” says Gregory Heyworth, a medievalist at the University of Rochester in New York. He points out that virtual unwrapping could be applied to countless other texts. In Western Europe alone, he estimates, there are tens of thousands of manuscripts dating from before A.D. 1500—from carbonized scrolls to book covers made from older, glued-together pages—that could benefit from such imaging. “We'd change the canon,” Heyworth says. “I think the next generation is going to have a very different picture of antiquity.”

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The Future of the Past

University of Rochester Newscenter  online


Textual scientist Gregory Heyworth lights up the first drafts of history.

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Connections: Trying to solve one of the world's great mysteries -- and read ancient books

WXXI Connections  radio


For all of ways we use the term "Epicurean," here's something strange: the original works of Epicurus himself have never been found. It's only through letters and quotations that we glimpse his work. But what if a library on a seaside villa contains the lost works of Epicurus -- and dozens of others?

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Selected Event Appearances (2)

TED Talk: How I'm Discovering the Secrets of Ancient Texts



How to read an invisible classic | Gregory Heyworth | TEDxUM

TEDxUM  University of Mississippi


Selected Articles (3)

Ineloquent Ends: Simplicitas, Proctolalia, and the Profane Vernacular in the Miller's Tale

University of Chicago Press Journals

Gregory Heyworth


The complaint of clerics in early-fifteenth-century England that Latin eloquence lay toothless and gibbering on its deathbed was neither new nor surprising nor even true. What this particular author is really complaining about is the rise of a vernacular poetic in the fourteenth century in such authors as Langland and Chaucer that, influenced by the demotic energies of Wyclif, valued linguistic and narrative simplicitas over ornate Latinity.

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Rediscovering text in the Yale Martellus map

2015 IEEE International Workshop on Information Forensics and Security (WIFS)

Roger L. Easton ; Kevin Sacca ; Gregory Heyworth ; Kenneth Boydston ; Chet Van Duzer ; Michael Phelps


A world map painted by Henricus Martellus c. 1491 is widely acknowledged to be of great importance in the history of cartography, but has been little studied since it came to the attention of scholars in 1959 because the pigments used to write the descriptive texts and place names has faded or flaked off of the surface. Spectral images of this map collected in August 2014 have been processed by several statistical methods, allowing much of the text to be recovered. The methods may be applied to other documents and for forensic applications.

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“Initial inspection of reagent damage to the Vercelli Book,”

Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies

Ira Rabin, Oliver Hahn, Roger Easton, Jr., Keith T. Knox, Ken Boydston, Gregory Heyworth, Timothy Leonardi, Michael Phelps


The use of chemical reagents for text enhancement was quite common in the 19th century. Their application resulted in permanent damage, irreversibly obscuring the writing. This paper describes an effort to find a suitable technique to read the passages in the Vercelli Book that were obliterated by the use of the gallnut tincture.

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