New stamp honors UI professor, inventor Bardeen

By Greg Kline
John Bardeen never ran for six touchdowns against Michigan.
Then again, Red Grange never won two Nobel Prizes nor invented anything like the transistor, the linchpin of the modern electronic age.

Which is why the late UI physics professor will join the Illini football legend Thursday as the latest person with local connections to end up on a commemorative stamp from the U.S. Postal Service. Grange was honored in 2003.

"It's the first time any of us have been involved in this type of event," Urbana Postmaster Kathleen Burr said. "It's very exciting to be able to recognize someone who has contributed so much, to the world actually, and it happened right here in our community."

That makes the first day the Bardeen stamp will go on sale an occasion for local postal officials, stamp aficionados and UI officials alike.

"It's not every day that the United States Postal Service issues a stamp in honor of somebody in your community," said Louise Toft of the Champaign-Urbana Stamp Club.

A U.S. Postal Service stamp commemorating the late UI physics Prof. John Bardeen, inventor of the transistor and a two-time Nobel Prize winner. By The News-Gazette
The stamp will be officially issued at the Postage Stamp Mega-Event, a "World Series of Philately" (that is, stamp collecting) starting Thursday in New York's Madison Square Garden, sponsored by the Postal Service, the American Stamp Dealers Association and the America Philatelic Society.

But its "first day of sale" will be marked at 12:15 p.m. Thursday in Room 144 of Loomis Lab, at the corner of Green Street and Goodwin Avenue, where the UI Physics Department is housed.

Local and UI officials will attend the ceremony, which is sponsored by the stamp club, the Urbana Post Office and the physics department, along with members of Mr. Bardeen's family. Burr is to cancel the first commemorative stamp and present it to Mr. Bardeen's son William, a noted physicist in his own right.

The stamp club has commissioned a special commemorative envelope, done by local artist Jason Pankoke, and the Urbana Post Office will cancel Bardeen stamps on the envelopes with a special first-day ink cancellation stamp.

The Bardeen stamp is one of four being issued in a distinguished American Scientists series. The other honorees include chemist Linus Pauling, another multi-Nobel winner, astronomer Edwin Hubble, after whom the space telescope is named, and biochemist Gerty Cori, who explained how the body uses starch from sugar as fuel.

Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis (and her eyes) and the art of Walt Disney also are getting commemorative stamp treatment from the postal service this year, among other subjects.
Bardeen, who died in 1991, developed the transistor with Walter Brattain and William Shockley at Bell Labs prior to joining the UI faculty in 1951. They won the Nobel Prize in 1956 for the invention, which enabled miniaturized radios, personal computers, cell phones and a host of other devices.

While at the UI, Bardeen and UI researchers Leon Cooper and John Schrieffer developed their BCS Theory explaining superconductivity, a state in which electricity flows without resistance, which won the Nobel in 1972.

The UI scientist was named one of the "100 Most Influential Americans of the Century" by Life magazine in 1990.

Dale Van Harlingen, the head of the UI Physics Department, noted that May 23 will mark the centennial of Mr. Bardeen's birth, another thing making the issuance of the commemorative stamp special.

For people who can't attend the ceremony Thursday, the stamps, envelopes and cancellations will be available by mail through the Champaign-Urbana Stamp Club, P.O. Box 6615, Champaign, IL, 61826-6615. The price is $3 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope size 10 or larger.

No comments: