1955 3¢ Atoms for Peace
Issue Date: July 28, 1955
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforations: 11 x 10 ½
Color: Deep blue
U.S. #1070 was issued in honor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s address to the United Nations in December 1953. Called “Atoms for Peace,” the speech laid out Eisenhower’s vision of the use of nuclear power for peace, rather than destruction. The world had witnessed the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, by atomic bomb, less than a decade earlier. Eisenhower’s speech helped ease fears of atomic war, even in the early years of the Cold War.
The border of the stamp includes one of the more famous lines from Eisenhower’s speech: “…to find the way by which the…inventiveness of man shall…be…consecrated to his life.”
The Nevada Test Site
World War II came to a close with the detonation of two atomic weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. With the war concluded, America’s top scientists and leaders knew that nuclear weapons and energy would have a tremendous impact on the future. Connecticut Senator Brien McMahon (1903-1952) served as chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. McMahon also authored the McMahon Act for the control of atomic energy, which resulted in the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in 1946. The AEC directed the development and use of atomic energy for both military and civilian purposes.
The Nevada Test Site (NTS) is a gigantic outdoor laboratory, located about 60 miles northwest of Las Vegas. At approximately 1,375 square miles, it’s larger than the State of Rhode Island. President Harry S. Truman established the NTS in December of 1950. The site was the only nuclear weapons testing area in the continental U.S. Before 1950, most nuclear tests had been done at small islands in the Pacific Ocean, which was very costly and time consuming. The first bomb tested at the NTS was a one kiloton warhead, detonated January 27, 1951. Nuclear tests continued at the NTS for four decades.
On December 8, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech before the United Nations General Assembly. President Eisenhower stated that he hoped “to find the way by which the inventiveness of man shall be consecrated to his life.” He proposed a program called Atoms for Peace, in which nations would donate atomic power to the United Nations, in order to find peaceful uses for it. This program developed into the International Atomic Energy Agency, and had far-reaching effects on American policy and attitudes.
In 1962, under the control of the Department of Energy (DOE), the NTS was also used to develop peaceful uses for nuclear energy. Since the 1992 moratorium on nuclear testing, the Department of Energy has used the site to test hazardous chemical spills, emergency response training, conventional weapons testing, waste management, and environmental technology.
Death Of Enrico Fermi
On November 28, 1954, Nobel physicist Enrico Fermi died in Chicago, Illinois.
Born in Rome, Italy, on September 29, 1901, Enrico Fermi had a strong understanding and joy for mathematics and physics from an early age. By 1918, he earned a fellowship of the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. He graduated in 1922 with a doctor’s degree in physics.
The following year, Fermi received a scholarship from the Italian government and studied with Professor Max Born in Göttingen. After that, he earned a Rockefeller Fellowship and went to Leyden. From 1924 to 26, Fermi worked as a Lecturer in Mathematical Physics and Mechanics at the University of Florence.
In 1926, Fermi discovered a statistical law relating to the distribution of particles over energy states in systems made up of several identical particles (now known as fermions). These became known as the Fermi-Dirac statistics (Paul Dirac discovered the method around the same time on his own). You can read more about this here.
US #3533 – Classic First Day Cover.
Fermi went on to become a Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Rome from 1927 to 1938. During that time, he focused on electrodynamics and spectroscopic phenomena. Over time, he began to turn his attention away from outer electrons to the atomic nucleus. Fermi advanced the ß-decay theory and discovered that nuclear transformation can happen to nearly every element that undergoes neutron bombardment. They led to the discovery of slow neutrons, nuclear fission, and the creation of elements outside of the existing Periodic Table. Fermi’s work in this field earned him the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics.
However, around this same time, Fermi grew concerned over Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, so he moved to America and was hired as a Professor of Physics at Columbia University in New York. Then in December 1942, Fermi staged the first controlled nuclear chain reaction in Chicago. He was also one of the leading physicists on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb that brought an end to World War II.
Fermi became an American citizen in 1944 and two years later, was made a professor at the Institute for Nuclear Studies of the University of Chicago. While there, he studied high-energy physics and pion-nucleon interactions. He spent his final years studying cosmic rays.
Suffering from stomach cancer, Fermi had an exploratory operation in October 1954, but died at the age of 53 weeks later on November 28, 1954, in Chicago, Illinois.
During his life, Fermi received a number of awards including the Matteucci Medal, Hughes Medal, Franklin Medal, Rumford Prize, and Medal for Merit. Many things have also been named in his honor, including the Fermilab particle accelerator and physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, three nuclear reactors, and a nuclear power plant. He’s also one of 16 scientists with an element named after him – fermium. And since 1956, the US Atomic Energy Commission’s highest honor has been known as the Fermi Award.
Click here to learn more about Fermi’s life and scientific contributions.