Founded in 1660, The Royal Society celebrates its 350th Anniversary in 2010 and as the National Academy of Science of the UK and the Commonwealth. It maintains its position at the forefront of inquiry and discovery, and at the cutting edge of scientific progress.
The backbone of the society, which is a charitable body, is its fellowship of the most eminent scientists of the day, and there are currently more than 60 Nobel Laureates amongst the society’s Fellows and Foreign Members, of which there are more than 1,400. To this day, Fellowship of The Royal Society is one the greatest honours that can be conferred on any scientist.
The origins of the society lie in an ‘invisible college’ of natural philosophers who first met in the mid 1640s and were united by a common desire to better understand the world and the universe through observation and experimentation. This spirit of empirical observation is encapsulated in the society’s Latin motto, ‘nullius in verba’, which can be roughly translated as ‘take nobody’s word for it.’
Robert Boyle, Chemistry
Boyle (1627 – 1691) was a natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, inventor, and gentleman scientist, also noted for his writings in theology. He is best known for the formulation of Boyle’s Law. Although his research and personal philosophy clearly has its roots in the alchemical tradition, he is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry. Among his works, The Sceptical Chymist is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry.
Sir Isaac Newton, Optics
Newton (1643 –1727) was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian who is perceived and considered by many as one of the most influential men in history. His Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, is by itself considered to be among the most influential books in the history of science, laying the groundwork for most of classical mechanics. In this work, Newton described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. Newton was also president of The Royal Society. The 300th anniversary of Principia Mathematica was marked by a set of four stamps in 1987.
Benjamin Franklin, Electricity
Franklin (1706 –1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, soldier, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He was important in the development of scientific experimentation and invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass ‘armonica’. Franklin appeared on the 11p US Bicentenary stamp issued in 1976.
Edward Jenner, Vaccination
Jenner (17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823) is widely credited as the pioneer of smallpox vaccine, and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Father of Immunology’. Jenner observed that milkmaids rarely got smallpox and concluded that exposure to the bovine disease cowpox conferred immunity a theory he tested and proved by injecting a child with pus from cowpox blisters. Jenner’s development of the smallpox vaccine was marked by a 20p stamp in the ‘Patients Tale’ Millenium set in March 1999.
Charles Babbage, Computing
Babbage, (1791 – 1871) was an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of a programmable computer. Babbage was pictured on a 22p Scientific Achievements stamp in 1991.
Alfred Russel Wallace, Evolution
Wallace (1823 – 1913) was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist. He is best known for independently proposing a theory of natural selection which prompted the joint reading of his and Charles Darwin’s papers on evolution in 1858, and spurred Darwin to publish his own theory the following year.
Joseph Lister, Antiseptic Surgery
Lister, 1st Baron Lister, (1827 – 1912) was an English surgeon who promoted the idea of sterile surgery while working at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He successfully introduced carbolic acid (phenol) to sterilize surgical instruments and to clean wounds, which led to reduced post-operative infections and made surgery safer for patients. The centenary of Lister’s discovery of Antispectic Surgery was marked by two stamps issued in 1965.
Ernest Rutherford, Atomic Structure
Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, (1871 – 1937) was a New Zealand born chemist and physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics. He discovered that atoms have a small charged nucleus, and thereby pioneered the Rutherford model (or planetary model, which later evolved into the Bohr model or orbital model) of the atom, through his discovery of Rutherford scattering with his gold foil experiment. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. He is widely credited as splitting the atom in 1917 and leading the first experiment to ‘split the nucleus’ in a controlled manner by two students under his direction, John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton in 1932. He was also president of The Royal Society.
Dorothy Hodgkin, Crystallography
The stamp marks the centenary of the birth of Dorothy Mary Hodgkin, (1910 –1994). She was a British chemist, credited with the development of Protein crystallography. She advanced the technique of X-ray crystallography, a method used to determine the three dimensional structures of biomolecules. Hodgkin was also the first female Briton to win a Nobel Prize. Hodgkin was also featured on a 20p ‘Famous Women’ stamp in 1998.
Sir Nicholas Shackleton, Earth Sciences
Shackleton (1937 – 2006) was a British geologist and climatologist who specialised in the Quaternary Period. Much of Shackleton’s later work helped to clarify the rates and mechanisms of aspects of climate change – a fitting subject to bring the stamp set right up to date.
Title: 350th Anniversary of the Royal Society
Date of Issue: 25 February 2010
Country: Great Britain
Denominations: 1st class x 10