Yale Bulletin and Calendar

May 20, 2005|Volume 33, Number 28|Three-Week Issue















Dr. John Willard Gibbs (left), a neurologist and distant cousin of Josiah Willard Gibbs, spoke at the stamp unveiling ceremony. He is pictured here with his parents, Martha and John Willard Gibbs Sr.

Yale scientist featured in new stamp series

Nineteenth-century Yale researcher Josiah Willard Gibbs is among four historic scientists honored in a new series of stamps from the U.S. Postal Service.

The First Day of Issue ceremony for the "American Scientist" stamp series was held May 4 in Yale's Luce Hall.

"It is an honor for Yale to host this event in recognition of some of the nation's greatest scientists and educators," said Paul A. Fleury, dean of Yale Engineering, who was master of ceremonies for the event. "We are particularly proud of Josiah Willard Gibbs, who received the nation's first Ph.D. in engineering -- from Yale."

In addition to Gibbs, the other researchers commemorated in the series are theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman, geneticist Barbara McClintock and mathematician John von Neumann.

At the official unveiling ceremony, John F. Walsh, a member of the board of governors of the U.S. Postal Service, said: "All of these scientists, even though they had different areas of expertise, shared a common passion for discovery: a passion that continues to make a difference in our lives."

John Marburger, scientific adviser to the President of the United States, was the featured speaker at the event. President Richard C. Levin -- who was appointed by President George W. Bush to a presidential commission reviewing the U.S. Postal Service mission, operations and role in the 21st century -- also spoke at the ceremony. Also on hand were relatives of the historic scientists: neurologist Dr. John Willard Gibbs, a distant cousin of Josiah Gibbs (who joined Fleury earlier that day at a ceremony to lay flowers at his ancestor's grave in Grove Street Cemetery); Feynman's daughter Michelle Feynman; McClintock's niece Marjorie M. Bhavanani; and von Neumann's daughter Marina Whitman.

Artist Victor Stabin of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, created all four stamps, which feature portraits of the scientists and drawings associated with their major contributions. Information about the specific elements in each image is printed on the back of each stamp. The series is now available at post offices around the nation or at the Postal Service website, www.usps.com.

Profiles of the featured scientists follow.

Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903)

Historians and scientists alike have called Josiah Willard Gibbs one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century; some have declared his discoveries to be as fundamental in nature as those of Galileo and Newton. Gibbs made important contributions in vector analysis, electromagnetic theory and statistical mechanics, but he is best known for developing the modern method of thermodynamic analysis.

Gibbs received the first Ph.D. in engineering in the U.S. from Yale in 1863. He later became a member of the Yale faculty.

Throughout his career, Gibbs published many books, including "On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances," which introduced the Phase Rule, said to be the most important single linear equation in the history of science.

Gibbs also wrote five papers on the electromagnetic theory of light, prepared classroom notes that eventually became the first English language work on modern vector analysis, and in 1902 published "Elementary Principles in Statistical Mechanics."

For these achievements, Gibbs received some of the most prestigious awards of his time, including the Rumford Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1880 and the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London in 1901.

Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988)

Richard P. Feynman was a theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichero Tomonaga for fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, which the three carried out independently in the 1940s. His new formulation of quantum theory included the innovative Feynman diagrams devised to help visualize the dynamics of atomic particles.

Over several decades, Feynman made significant contributions to many other areas of physics, including the fundamental theory for the weak nuclear force, which he developed with colleague Murray Gell-Mann. Feynman is also remembered for his major role in the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident in 1986 and for significant contributions to computation theory and biology.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, he received the Albert Einstein Award, the National Medal of Science in 1979 and many other honors -- but he often said the best reward was "the pleasure of finding things out."

Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)

Barbara McClintock was among the first biologists to think concretely about the way genetic material controls the development of the organism.

In 1983, she received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering genetic transposition -- the fact that genetic material can change positions on a chromosome or move from one chromosome to another.

McClintock was doing research on Indian corn plants at Cold Spring Harbor during the 1940s when she discovered transposition in the course of experiments on mutations caused by broken chromosomes. She called her mobile genetic elements "controlling elements" to indicate that they controlled the action of other genes during development.

Her discovery was confirmed first in corn, and in the 1960s and 1970s in bacteria and other organisms.

John von Neumann (1903-1957)

One of the preeminent mathematicians of the 20th century, John von Neumann made numerous scientific contributions in both pure and applied mathematics.

He was a colleague of Albert Einstein and other scientists at the Institute for Advanced Study in the 1930s, and by 1943 he was a consultant on the U.S. project to build an atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

"A First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer)," written by von Neumann in June 1945, described a design based on the stored-program concept. Completed in 1952, it became a prototype for almost every computer built since that time. For his part in its development, von Neumann received the prestigious Enrico Fermi Award in 1956 from the U.S. government.

Von Neumann also provided the mathematical foundations for quantum mechanics and, with co-author Oskar Morgenstern, wrote "Theory of Games and Economic Behavior" (1944). This theory, which has applications in business and military strategies, analyzes situations involving conflicting interests in terms of the opposing players' gains and losses.


Team creates blood test for 'silent killer'

University marks 100 years of 'Pomp and Circumstance'

Yale scientist featured in new stamp series

Twelve honored for strengthening town-gown ties


Krauss named to second term at Silliman

Researchers discover virus' potential to target and kill deadly brain tumor

Yale professors endow teaching and research fund in the history of science

Study shows, when it comes to fish genitalia, size has pros and cons

Two Yale scientists honored with election to the NAS

Six Yale affiliates elected fellows of scholarly society

Beijing conference explored Chinese constitutionalism

New scholarship will help nurture future activist ministers

Yale-IBM computer facility formally dedicated


Yale launches research on lung cancer . . .

Workshop will explore technology's power to capture . . .

Show features artist's colorful depictions of 'Northern Shores'

Glen Micalizio wins Beckman Young Investigator award . . .


Campus Notes

Bulletin Home|Visiting on Campus|Calendar of Events|In the News

Bulletin Board|Classified Ads|Search Archives|Deadlines

Bulletin Staff|Public Affairs|News Releases| E-Mail Us|Yale Home