Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's About Time

Yes, in fact it is about time that I compose another post for Get Your Botany On!, as it's been nearly two months since my previous post.  But that's not what I am referring to with the title of this post.  I'm referring to the fact that it is about time that one of this country's great botanists gets immortalized on a postage stamp.

This is the third in a series of stamps acknowledging the contributions of American scientists.  Previous stamps in this series have recognized:
  • Barbara McClintock, a cytogeneticist known for her work on the genetic structure of maize;
  • Josiah Willard Gibbs, a physicist, chemist, and mathematician known as the father of physical chemistry;
  • John von Neumann, a mathematician and computer scientist known as one of the greatest mathematicians of the modern era, as well as for his work in quantum mechanics and nuclear physics;
  • Richard Feynman, a physicist known for his work in the field of quantum mechanics as well as for assisting with development of the atomic bomb and introducing the concept of nanotechnology;
  • Gerty Cori, a biochemist known for her work on carbohydrate metabolism;
  • Linus Pauling, a chemist and biochemist known for his work in the field of quantum chemistry;
  • Edwin Hubble, an astronomer known for discovering that there are galaxies outside of the Milky Way; and
  • John Bardeen, a physicist known for inventing the transistor.
In the current set of stamps, botanist Asa Gray is recognized along with three other American scientists.

Here is information on each of these scientists from the U.S. Postal Service webpage:

Melvin Calvin (1911-1997) advanced our understanding of photosynthesis and conducted pioneering research on using plants as an alternative energy source. He won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1961. The stamp art includes a photograph of him taken by Yousuf Karsh. The background shows excerpts from the carbon cycle, and chemical symbols and structures he used to represent the process of photosynthesis.

Asa Gray (1810-1888), one of the nation's first professional botanists, advanced the specialized field of plant geography and became the principal American advocate of evolutionary theory in the mid-nineteenth century. The stamp art features illustrations of plants studied by Gray and the words "Shortia galacifolia" in Gray's handwriting.

Maria Goeppert Mayer (1906-1972) developed a theoretical model that helped explain the structure of the atomic nucleus; for this work she became the only woman other than Marie Curie to win a Nobel Prize in physics. The stamp art combines photographs of Mayer with a chart and a diagram she used to illustrate aspects of the atomic nucleus.

Severo Ochoa (1905-1993), a biochemist, was the first scientist to synthesize ribonucleic acid (RNA) and competed in the race to decipher the genetic code. He won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1959. The stamp shows Ochoa in his laboratory in 1959, along with figures representing some of his work on protein synthesis.

Art Director Ethel Kessler worked with Designer Greg Berger to make each stamp a carefully structured collage of photographs, signatures, and representations of equations and diagrams associated with the scientist's research.

Unfortunately, the post office in my town doesn't carry these stamps.  I was able to purchase them online at face value plus $1.00 for shipping and handling.  These are "forever" stamps, so buy a bunch now and use them forever. 

Not to be greedy, but what I want to know is when the Merritt Lyndon Fernald stamps are coming out so that I can stock up on those!

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