Monday, May 05, 2008

American scientists

On the 6th of March 2008, USPS, the USA postal administration, has issued a set of four stamps honouring four famous American scientists. I recently received a first day cover bearing two stamps of this set. Here it is.

It is a pity that the postmark has been so badly placed on the stamps. I guess this is because of the position of the stamps themselves : the postal clerk tried to cancel all four stamps in one shot. Here is a picture of the four stamps of the set.

A long time ago, when I was 17, I decided to follow scientific studies, and in my dreams I was becoming the new Pierre Curie ! I did not become the new Pierre Curie, but I kept my admiration for all the scientists that, through their discoveries, participate to the progress of mankind. This is why I really like this type of stamps.

The four scientists that are honoured on this set of stamps are (clockwise) :
- Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) who was an American astronomer. He has profoundly marked astronomy by demonstrating the existence of other galaxies besides the Milky Way. He is also at the origin of what is now called the Hubble law, that indicates that the degree of red shift observed in light coming from a galaxy increases in proportion to the distance of this galaxy from the Milky Way : this law would help to establish that the universe is expending. At the difference of the three other scientists honoured on the stamp set, Edwin Hubble never received the Nobel prize. At this time, astronomical work was not eligible for the physics prize ! This is the work of astronomers such as Hubble that helped to change this.

- John Bardeen (1908-1991) who was an American physicist and electrical engineer who won the Nobel prize in Physics twice : in 1956 and in 1972. One of his discoveries is, together with William Shockley and Walter Brattain, the invention of the transistor, a major invention without which you could not use today a computer to read my blog ;-)

- Linus Pauling (1901-1994) who was an American scientist and a peace activist. He belongs to the small group of people who received twice the Nobel Prize, and even more : he is the only one who received two Nobel prizes in different fields without sharing them with someone else. He was awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 for his campaign against above ground nuclear testing.

- Gerty Cori (1896-1957) who was an American biochemist born in Prague. She received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1947 together with her husband. She is the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in science, and the third one worldwide (the two first ones being Marie Curie and Irène Joliot-Curie).

As you see, the stamps picture a portrait of the scientists and contain in the background a reference to their work.

The two small stamps that you can see on the cover are definitive stamps that I already mentioned in a previous post.

I have received this first day cover wrapped in a plastic bag, hardened with a piece of cardboard. This is not the first time I get FDC from the USA in this way. I guess that this is a service proposed by USPS : you send a cover bearing the stamps, it gets the first day cancel and is sent through the postal service protected by this plastic bag. This is something we can not do in France. In France, as far as I know, if you want to have your FDC sent through the postal service then you need to be present at the first day ceremony. After the ceremony you can send a cover to get the first day cancel, but it will not be sent back directly through the postal service : it will be sent back inside another cover that you need to provide when sending your item.

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