John Fredrich Asmus

1990 Laureate, Cultural Heritage
United States, Born 1937

Project Goal

Develop laser techniques to clean and restore colour to China's ancient terracotta army

Location: China

Starting his career working with nuclear propulsion in space, John Asmus became one of the world’s foremost high-tech art conservators.

Known as the “space-age art restorer” and the “grandfather of laser conservation”, American laser physicist John Asmus, (born in 1937), traces his interest in lasers as a means of restoring art to the 1970s. As a scientist with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, Asmus understood how science could be harnessed for the benefit of art.

His 1990 Rolex Award for his pioneering work to restore the colours decorating the Chinese Qin Dynasty Terracotta Warriors inspired many more art conservators to carry out a wide range of arts restoration programmes around the world.

The Award also contributed to the founding, in 1994, of the professional society LACONA (LAsers for the CONservation of Artworks).

A research physicist at the University of California, San Diego, since 1973, Asmus is currently establishing a consortium to provide laser technologies for art conservation programmes in Latin America. 

Other 1990 Laureates