Kirt's Cogitations™ #232
The Stamp of Approval for Science
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Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted thought or
reflection; meditation; contemplation.
Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.
The Stamp of Approval for Science
With ever-lessening frequency (due to business and life in general), I
engage in the practice of philately - not to be confused with philanthropy. Philatelists are more commonly known
as stamp collectors. New stamps are issued every few months, and offer a great opportunity to educate the
mail-receiving public on a large number of topics. In addition to general postage stamps - the little square ones
with a president's picture, a pair of love birds, or a tea pot on them - the U.S. Postal Service, as well as many
other countries' post offices, issues commemorative postage stamps to honor people, places, and events considered
important in their country's history. Among those subjects of commemoration are people, places, and events related
first commemorative stamp issued in America in 1893 paid tribute to Christopher Columbus, an explorer and man of
science. The set is referred to as the "Columbian Exposition Issue." It is valued at around $10k, by the way.
Other sets for other expositions followed. The New York World's Fair has been the subject of a
commemorative stamps, since it has always been a venue for the introduction of awe-inspiring technology and
futuristic contraptions (see Pedro
the Voder). A "First Man on the Moon" stamp was issued on July 1, 1970, in remembrance of the previous year's
event on July 20, 1969. This "Progress in Electronics," stamp came out on July 10, 1973. The Centennial of Flight
event had a stamp
on May 22, 2003, simultaneously at the USAF Museum in Dayton, OH, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial Park
in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. It paid tribute to the first sustained powered flight by the Wright brothers, not to the
Prize winners are a favorite subject in the people category. America as a nation has benefited greatly as the
destination of choice for many of the world's greatest minds (LEGAL immigrants,
by the way), many of whom have been awarded Nobel Prizes.
is probably the most often commemorated scientist in the world, and
were fortunate enough to get him from Austria. The U.S. issued a single stamp design in his honor. Shown also is a
full theme sheet put out by Mongolia in 2000; many countries have done similar printings for Einstein. France and
a few other
issued commemoratives of Marie Curie. Niels Bohr got his own stamp from Denmark. One block of four stamps on May
4, 2005, from the USPS took
of four categories of Nobel scientists in one fell swoop - a geneticist, a thermodynamicist, a mathematician, and
a physicist. Enrico Fermi got a stamp of his own in October of 2001.
many non-Nobel types have been commemorated for their contributions to science. The Robert Goddard stamp was
issued on October 5, 1964, in Roswell, NM (a fitting location - aliens, space,
An example of a foreign nation's commemorative stamp honoring Goddard is also shown. In another drive-by issuance,
four of the most famous communications pioneers, Charles Steinmetz, Edwin Armstrong, Philo T. Farnsworth, and
Nikola Tesla were commemorated in a block titled, "Tribute to American Inventors." Tesla has been honored on many
of the world's stamps. Benjamin Franklin, being the country's first postmaster appointed by Congress, has his mug
on many stamps, both commemorative and non.
is a stamp that honors a subject that will be near and dear to a lot of RF Cafe visitors - Radio Amateurs. It was
issued on December 15, 1964, in Anchorage, AK. Other stamps have paid tribute to
communications pioneers. Italy issued a stamp in honor of Guglielmo Marconi, but I
by Germany is a better design (although Italy did give Marconi an entire banknote of his own). The
Echo 1 satellite received recognition on
December 15, 1960, after having been placed in Earth orbit in August of the same year. This "Radio Entertains
America," while not truly a commemorative stamp, does serve the purpose. The International Telecommunication Union
was commemorated with a stamp in
not all commemorative stamps have been as complimentary of their subjects as the designers intended. One recent
example of note is the R. Buckminster Fuller stamp. "Buckey," as he was known to his friends, discovered the third
form of carbon - a 60-sided regular polygon that was dubbed a "Buckeyball" fullerene (C60). Click on the stamp
thumbnail to see how the guy was rendered. This is a case of being too intent on making a theme fit where it
really does not belong. The first two forms of
carbon, incidentally, are graphite and diamond.
These are but just a small sample of commemorative
stamps with a science theme; a Google image search will turn up thousands more. In this day of a predominance of
e-mail and text messaging, sending or receiving a for-real letter in a for-real envelope is becoming increasingly
rare (kind of like my aforementioned opportunities for stamp collecting activities). Stamp machines in stores and
in the post office lobby do not dispense commemoratives, so you usually have to actually go into a post office and
get the stamps at a counter. Back in the early days of what eventually became RF Cafe (originally Waypoint
Software, selling my DOS-based
TxRx Designer system analysis
software), I used to be sure to affix commemorative stamps to all my mailings. Now, everything gets "shipped" via
e-mail, so the opportunity has been lost to put these reminders of history in front of people.
thing: Before you go desiring yourself honored in similar fashion on a commemorative stamp of your own, at least
by the U.S. Postal Service, keep this in mind. Except for former presidents, a person must have been deceased at
least ten years before he/she can be commemorated on a stamp. It's the old, "Careful what you wish for - you might
just get it," admonition.