Remembering Martin Isenburg: a friend and inspiration to OpenTopography

Sep 14, 2021

It is with great sadness that we learned about the passing of Martin Isenburg. We feel this loss deeply and our condolences go to his family and friends.

Martin was a giant in the field of lidar and topographic data processing. His “fast tools to catch reality” (rapidlasso) LAStools were powerful and widely used throughout the lidar industry. They liberated us to be able to quickly and easily process LAS point cloud files produced from laser scanning and photogrammetry. His tools were easy to use; they worked and scaled; and they drove standards and became the foundation of countless lidar processing workflows. Even more importantly, Martin was an iconoclast who advocated for open data, and for peaceful uses of those data.

Martin was a friend and supporter of OpenTopography. We taught together at several high resolution topography workshops over the years. His command of the tools and also his honest and genuine interaction with the students was inspiring. Learning from Martin improved our understanding and our service to the OpenTopography community. He had many stories and was mischievous as he challenged closed data and software. Who can forget the April Fools message that rapidlasso and ESRI were going to collaborate on a LAS compressor? He was happy to poke fun with his demos using Pentagon LAZ data.

Martin’s brilliance lives on figuratively in his leadership for data standards, open data, and software performance. It also is literal as LAStools technologies such as his brilliant Streaming Computation of Delaunay Triangulations (BLAST) help power OpenTopography.

Martin was a force and we will miss his brilliant mind, sharp wit, and steadfast positions.

Martin Isenburg (upper right) at a celebratory dinner after teaching at a 2018 short course at CICESE (Ensenada, Mexico) hosted by Alejandro Hinojosa (upper left)