School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

U.S. Postal Service to Dedicate
Famous Scientist Stamps at U.T. Dallas

Friday, May 6, 2005
UTD Kusch Auditorium

RICHARDSON, Texas (April 22, 2005) — When it comes to innovative science and scholarly research in North Texas, the University of Texas at Dallas sets the standard. That is why the United States Postal Service (USPS) chose UTD as the site of a regional public ceremony for the new stamp issue featuring four famous American scientists.

The block of four stamps featuring cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock, mathematician John von Neumann, physicist Richard Feynman, and thermodynamicist Josiah Willard Gibbs will be dedicated at 1 p.m., Friday, May 6 in the Kusch Auditorium (FN 2.102) on the UTD campus. Dignitaries include USPS Dallas District Manager Carl January, UTD President Franklyn Jenifer, UTD Provost Hobson Wildenthal, Acting Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics John Ferraris, and Dean of Libraries Larry D. Sall. A reception will follow immediately in the McDermott Suite (MC 4.404) of the McDermott Library.

In addition to UTD’s international reputation in the sciences, the Special Collections Department in McDermott Library has been home to the Wineburgh Philatelic Research Library since the mid-1970s. A similar dedication ceremony at the Wineburgh in 1999 for the integrated circuit stamp included an appearance by Nobel laureate Jack Kilby, a former Texas Instruments researcher credited with inventing the device that revolutionized the world.

Not only is Kusch Auditorium located in the heart of UTD’s scientific community, it is named after the late faculty member Polykarp Kusch, 1955 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Two recent Nobel laureates – Alan MacDiarmid (Chemistry, 2000) and Russell Hulse (Physics, 1993) are faculty members at UTD.

The USPS will have available the new stamps, commemorative envelopes noting the ceremony and special pictorial cancellations that can be applied to the stamps as mementos of the dedication.

About the scientists on the stamps

In 1944 McClintock (1902-1992) became the third woman elected to the National Academy of Science (NAS). In the 1940s and 1950s her work on the cytogenetics of maize led her to theorize that genes are transposable - they can move around - on and between chromosomes. McClintock drew this inference by observing changing patterns of coloration in maize kernels over generations of controlled crosses. The idea that genes could move did not seem to fit with what was then known about genes, but improved molecular techniques of the late 1970s and early 1980s allowed other scientists to confirm her discovery, and consequently she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983. This made McClintock the first American woman to win an unshared Nobel. She was born in Hartford, CT, and obtained her undergraduate and doctoral degrees at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture. From 1931-1933 she was supported by a fellowship from the National Research Council; from 1941until her death she worked at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. Among her many honors is the National Medal of Science, the U.S. government’s highest science award, which she received in 1970.

When Von Neumann (1903-1957) was elected a member of the NAS in 1937, he was known for his contributions to the fields of mathematical logic and the foundations of quantum mechanics. But his interests were wide-ranging, and he went on to do distinguished work in other fields, including economics and strategic thinking. He is perhaps best known for his work in the early development of computers. As director of the Electronic Computer Project at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (1945-1955), he developed MANIAC (mathematical analyzer, numerical integrator and computer), which at the time was the fastest computer of its kind. Built at a time long before the invention of the silicon chip, MANIAC was run on thousands of vacuum tubes. Von Neumann was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1903, and studied in Berlin, Zurich, and Hamburg. In 1930 he joined the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. He became a U.S. citizen in 1937, and during World War II distinguished himself with his work in weapons development. In 1955 he was named a Commissioner of the Atomic Energy Commission, a position he held up to his death from cancer in 1957.

Feynman (1918-1988) was one of the most influential American physicists of the 20th Century, expanding greatly the theory of quantum electrodynamics. As well as being an inspiring lecturer and amateur musician, he helped in the development of the atomic bomb and was later a member of the panel that investigated the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. For his work on quantum electrodynamics, Feynman was one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1965, along with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga. Feynman is famous for his many adventures, detailed in the books Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, What Do You Care What Other People Think? and Tuva Or Bust!. Richard Feynman was, in many respects, an eccentric and a free spirit. He was born in Queens, NY. He studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he obtained his B.Sc. in 1939 and at Princeton University where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1942. He was Research Assistant at Princeton (1940-1941), Professor of Theoretical Physics at Cornell University (1945-1950), Visiting Professor and thereafter Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology (1950-1959).

Gibbs (1839-1903) was born in New Haven CT to a father who was a Yale University professor best known for finding translators for the mutineers of the Amistad slave ship. In 1873, his first published work titled “Graphical Methods in the Thermodynamics of Fluids” was released. He was 34 and was just starting to reveal his genius. His first paper included the formula for which he is probably most famous: dU = T dS — P dV. His second published work came out that same year with the title of “A Method of Geometrical Representation of the Thermodynamic Properties of Substances by Means of Surfaces.” He had a tendency to create long and somewhat unintelligible titles. In fact, the most often cited fault was that his work was hard to follow, even for those who were considered experts. Gibbs also contributed to crystallography, the determination of planetary and comet orbits, and electromagnetic theory. James Clerk Maxwell was one of the first European scientists to recognize Gibbs as a theoretical physicist of international stature. Gibbs was also interested in the practical side of science; his doctorate was the first granted by Yale for an engineering thesis, and he received a patent (1866) for an improved type of railroad brake. His Scientific Papers appeared in 1906 (reprinted 1961) and his Collected Works in 1928.

News contact: Tom Koch, UTD, 972-883-4951

  • Updated: December 19, 2007