37¢ American Scientists
Issue Date: May 4, 2005
City: New Haven, CT
Printed By: Banknote Corporation of America for Sennett Security Products
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: Serpentine Die Cut 10.75
Please note: Due to the layout of the pane, the se-tenant may or may not be provided in Scott Catalogue order.
Barbara McClintock (1902-92), born in Hartford, Connecticut, earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in botany at Cornell University. She had wanted to study genetics, but women were not allowed to at that time.
Fellowships, however, enabled McClintock to pursue genetics at various institutions. In 1941, she was hired for one year at Carnegie Institute’s laboratory on Long Island, New York. There she bred and crossbred maize (corn) on a little plot of land near Long Island Sound.
“One year” stretched into 26 years of careful planting, pollination, and observation. In 1967, she retired from the Institute, but was invited to stay on as a researcher.
McClintock found that color changes in successive generations of maize were turned on or off by genetic “switches.” Moreover, these switches could move from one part of a chromosome to another. Her discovery was crucial to later genetic research.
More concerned with science than material comforts, McClintock lived in two rooms over a garage for 20 years. In 1981, when she was awarded a lifetime grant by the MacArthur Foundation, she finally moved into larger quarters. Two years later, at the age of 81, she became the first woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Josiah Willard Gibbs
Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903) was an American mathematical physicist born in New Haven, CT. His father was a Yale professor who worked with the Africans of the Amistad Mutiny, translating their stories.
Gibbs received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1863. He became the first professor of mathematical physics at Yale in 1871. For nine years he held that position with no pay, living on an inheritance. When another university offered a salary, Yale countered with its own offer. Gibbs stayed at Yale.
In the age of steam, Gibbs formulated the laws of thermodynamics – the relationship between heat and other forms of energy. His rules had applications to chemistry, manufacturing, and engineering.
Except for a few early years abroad, Gibbs lived an uneventful, bachelor’s life in the house where he grew up. He was a gentle, considerate man, said to be “approachable and kind (if unintelligible) to students.”
Since Gibbs died soon after the Nobel Prizes began, he never won that prize. However, he did receive some of the most prestigious awards of his era. The famous Albert Einstein called Josiah Willard Gibbs “one of the most original and important creative minds in the field of science America has produced.”
John von Neumann
John von Neumann (1903-57) was an American mathematician born in Hungary. He had a fun-loving nature, and even as a boy, he had a brilliant mind. At only six years old, John could divide eight-digit numbers in his head and joke with his father in classical Greek.
Von Neumann came to the U.S. in 1930 and taught at Princeton University until 1933. As a teacher, he was notorious for dashing out equations and erasing them before students could copy them. In 1933, he became part of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) where he was a mathematics professor until the end of his life.
Von Neumann’s early interests were logic and theory, like the mathematical Games Theory later used to devise military strategy. He was also a major contributor to quantum theory and helped create the atomic bomb at the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
After World War II, von Neumann worked to develop large scale, high-speed electronic computers with stored programs. His design of the IAS computer – the von Neumann Architecture – became the model for most of its successors.
In 1956, President Eisenhower awarded John von Neumann the Presidential Medal for Freedom for his service in furthering the security of the United States.
Richard Phillips Feynman
Theoretical physicist Richard Phillips Feynman (1918-1988) was raised in Far Rockaway, New York. As a boy, he collected electric gadgets and repaired radios. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University.
During World War II, Feynman worked on the atomic bomb at the Manhattan Project, in Los Alamos, NM. To amuse himself and to point out deficiencies in security, he opened his colleagues’ safes and left notes in them.
After the war, Feynman taught at Cornell University and then at the California Institute of Technology. He was an enthusiastic educator who sought to make topics understandable to others.
Feynman shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics. His work on quantum electrodynamics described the interactions of charged, subatomic particles and electromagnetic fields. He invented “Feynman diagrams,” arrows and squiggles that show particle activity.
In 1986, Feynman served on the special commission investigating the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. He discovered that an O-ring seal had failed due to the unusually cold launch-pad temperatures.
Scientist Richard Feynman is remembered for his gentle wit, insatiable curiosity, and brilliant mind.
American Scientists Series
On May 4, 2005, the USPS issued the first set of stamps in the American Scientists Series.
For several years, the USPS had received requests for stamps honoring various scientists. In 2005, they combined those ideas to create the American Scientists Series.
The first stamps were issued on May 5, 2005, at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where Josiah Willard Gibbs had worked as a teacher. The First Day Ceremony included a speech from John Marburger, the scientific advisor to the president as well as the president of Yale University. Relatives of the scientists honored on the stamps were also present.
About the stamps, a USPS spokesperson said, “These are some of the greatest scientists of our time; their pioneering discoveries still influence our lives today.” Artist Victor Stabin designed all the stamps. He used a portrait of each scientist paired with drawings representing their major contributions to the world of science. He consulted with experts to ensure the science was correct.
After World War II, John von Neumann worked to develop large scale, high-speed electronic computers with stored programs. His design of the IAS computer – the von Neumann Architecture – became the model for most of its successors. Richard Feynman received the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics. He invented the Feynman diagrams which depict arrows and squiggles to represent particle activity.
Barbara McClintock found that color changes in successive generations of maize were turned on or off by genetic “switches.” Moreover, these switches could move from one part of a chromosome to another. Her discovery was crucial to later genetic research. In the age of steam, Josiah Gibbs formulated the laws of thermodynamics – the relationship between heat and other forms of energy. His rules had applications to chemistry, manufacturing, and engineering.
The second installment in the American Scientists Series was issued on March 6, 2008, at Madison Square Garden, in New York City. A USPS representative said, “We are here to honor four extraordinary individuals who pushed back the frontiers of knowledge on behalf of all of mankind.” Family members of each of the scientists were present for the first-day ceremony and were all excited to see them honored on stamps.
Gerti Cori was the first female to earn a Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine in 1947. Working with her husband, Cori discovered how carbohydrates are metabolized in the body. The Cori Crater on the Moon was named for her. Linus Pauling is considered by most to be the father of molecular biology. He earned two Nobel Prizes, one for chemistry in 1954 and one for Peace in 1962. In 1973, Pauling co-founded the Linus Pauling Institute.
Astronomer Edwin Hubble forever changed the way we see our world. Before Hubble, it was thought that our Milky Way galaxy was the entire universe. Hubble’s research showed there are galaxies beyond our own. In 1990, the Hubble telescope was named after the distinguished astronomer. John Bardeen’s development of the transistor has made possible the creation of almost every other modern electronic device from telephones to missiles. He earned Nobel Prizes in 1956 and 1972 for his world-changing contributions.
The third installment in the American Scientists Series was issued on June 16, 2011, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, in St. Paul, Minnesota. In speaking about the stamps, the USPS said, “In this small way, we have created a lasting tribute to four extraordinary scientists, and as we share their legacy with Americans everywhere, it is our fervent hope that these stamps also will help to light the spark of science in young minds everywhere.”
The stamps honored Melvin Calvin, Asa Gray, Maria Goeppert Mayer, and Severo Ochoa. Three of them won the Nobel Prize in their respective fields. The fourth, Gray, lived in the 19th century, before the Nobel was established, but he enjoyed international renown for his work in botany. His books are still used today.
With tremendous dedication, these scientists opened doors for others to follow. Their persistence unlocked secrets of the workings of the world: from Calvin’s understanding of plants and energy to Goeppert Mayer’s investigation of atomic particles. Gray’s manuals detailing plants are still relevant more than 160 years later, and Ochoa’s research into the building blocks of life marked a critical advance.
May the Fourth Be With You!
Did you know today is Star Wars Day? It’s an unofficial holiday created by fans in 2011 to celebrate the lasting legacy of one of the world’s most popular Science Fiction film franchises. The name is a play on the popular phrase “May the force be with you.” Today, it’s celebrated by Star Wars fans around the world and has been officially recognized by the Walt Disney Company. And the next two days are also part of the fun – some refer to them as “Revenge of the Fifth” and “Revenge of the Sixth,” a play on the film title Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
Click here for more Star Wars stamps.