Cambridge scientists make their mark at Royal Mail

Louise Floyd - News Reporter 9 March 2010

A new series of ten first class stamps has been produced by Royal Mail to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society, the national academy of science of the UK and the Commonwealth. Five of the ten prominent scientists featured on the stamps studied at Cambridge.

Stephen Cox, Executive Secretary of the Royal Society, told The Cambridge Student (TCS), that “the Royal Society worked with Royal Mail to develop the idea of dividing the 350 year history of the Royal Society across the ten stamps, using each 35-year increment of time to celebrate the life and work of a Fellow from each era. We also sought to ensure that we featured the broad range of sciences that the Society covers, and reflected its international remit.”

The stamps’ split design combines a portrait of the scientist with imagery symbolic of their work. Featured scientists represent achievements across a range of disciplines, from Alfred Wallace’s theory of evolution via natural selection to Boyle’s Law.

The Cambridge scientists include Sir Isaac Newton, for his study of gravity and the three laws of motion; Charles Babbage, whose Analytical Engine was the world’s first programmable computer; Dorothy Hodgkin, renowned for her pioneering use of X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of bio molecules; Ernest Rutherford who developed the model of the atom, and Professor Sir Nicholas Shackleton for his study of the Earth’s climate.

Emily Hartley, a third-year Natural Scientist at Emmanuel who is specialising in Zoology, commented to TCS, “I think that there have been so many great scientists that narrowing the selection down to just ten must have been quite a task.”

The scientists were chosen from a field of more than 1,400 Royal Society Fellows and Foreign Members and over 60 Nobel Laureates, representing a wide range of disciplines.

Not included, however, was Charles Darwin, who was instead celebrated in a series of stamps in 2009. Neither does Robert Hooke, the Royal Society’s first Curator of Experiments, feature.

Stephen Cox commented that “while Hooke played a crucial role in the early Society, unfortunately no portraits of him are known to exist. Hooke’s close friend and collaborator Christopher Wren was instead chosen to represent the earliest years of the Royal Society.”

Louise Floyd – News Reporter