A light microscope-based technique for rapidly constructing ordered physical maps of chromosomes has been developed. Restriction enzyme digestion of elongated individual DNA molecules (about 0.2 to 1.0 megabases in size) was imaged by fluorescence microscopy after fixation in agarose gel. The size of the resulting individual restriction fragments was determined by relative fluorescence intensity and apparent molecular contour length. Ordered restriction maps were then created from genomic DNA without reliance on cloned or amplified sequences for hybridization or analytical gel electrophoresis. Initial application of optical mapping is described for Saccharomyces cerevisiae chromosomes.