The International Year of Chemistry (IYC) is being feted in various ways, and issuing stamps celebrating the event is popular in countries around the globe. Belgium, France, Israel, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, and Switzerland have already issued COMMEMORATIVE IYC STAMPS, and many more countries are expected to release them throughout the year.
Having an IYC stamp is “a neat, inexpensive way of celebrating chemistry,” says Daniel Rabinovich, a professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, who is also an avid collector of chemistry postage.
Some of the stamps incorporate an aspect of chemistry relevant to the issuing country. Israel, for example, has issued a pair of colorful stamps depicting the ribbon structures of the ribosome and ubiquitin. The stamps honor contributions by Israeli scientists to the elucidation of the structures of these biomolecules. This work led to two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, one in 2004 and another in 2009.
Switzerland’s stamp features vitamin C. Swiss chemist Tadeus Reichstein synthesized the compound for the first time in 1933.
France’s IYC stamp celebrates the 100th anniversary of Marie Curie, a longtime resident of the country, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with a classic portrait of the famous chemist in her lab. Sri Lanka’s stamp shows Curie alongside M. U. S. Sultanbawa, one of the country’s most distinguished chemists. Below their portraits sits a blue sapphire, the national gem of Sri Lanka, together with its molecular aluminum oxide framework.
Indonesia is set to issue two IYC stamps on March 23. One will feature the official IYC logo, and the other will highlight the xanthone derivative artoindonesianin C, which was isolated from the plant Artocarpus teysmannii by researchers at Bandung Institute of Technology, in Indonesia, as a potential anticancer agent.
Not all IYC stamps have a cultural connection, however. Both Slovakia’s and Belgium’s stamps, issued on the same day, display the molecular structures of water and carbon dioxide, emphasizing the importance of these molecules to life. And Spain’s stamp also celebrates Curie’s accomplishments by featuring her portrait.
Although the U.S. is not issuing an IYC stamp, it is introducing four stamps in June as part of its series on American scientists. Chemist and Nobel Laureate Melvin Calvin, known for discovering the photosynthetic Calvin cycle, is among the scientists to be featured.
Other countries planning to issue IYC stamps include Canada, Japan, Kuwait, Macedonia, Paraguay, Peru, and Romania. China has issued a postcard celebrating IYC. Rabinovich says he expects more than two dozen IYC commemorative stamps to be issued by the end of the year. He has started an unofficial repository of international IYC stamps on the website chemistry2011.org (search for “IYC Postage Stamp Central”).
Students who are interested in designing their own IYC stamps can participate in the Global Stamp Competition, which was launched in Paris in January during the yearlong celebration’s opening ceremony (C&EN, Jan. 31, page 8). The stamps are required to highlight the impact of chemistry on a country’s culture and everyday life.
Others who would like to customize IYC stamps can do so at a website such as stamps.com. You’ll have to pay a premium, but it’s worth it to spread a little IYC cheer, Rabinovich says.
And if you’re looking for something to pique your interest at the fall ACS national meeting in Denver, you can attend a special exhibit and symposium organized by Rabinovich on chemistry-related stamps.