Press Release

Caltech Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman Honored on 2005 U.S. Commemorative Stamp

By SpaceRef Editor
May 5, 2005
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For Photos, go to: ions/news/stamps/2004/sr04_076.htm

PASADENA, Calif. – Widely regarded as one of the most influential physicists of the 20th Century, Nobel laureate and Caltech professor Richard P. Feynman will be honored on a 2005 U.S. postage commemorative stamp.  The stamp will be unveiled locally at a celebration on Friday, May 20, at 5 p.m. in Ramo Auditorium on the California Institute of Technology campus.  The public is invited to attend this free event.  Caltech will offer a limited-edition special commemorative envelope bearing the four stamps that compose the American Scientists series, and a special cancellation stamp from the Feynman Station at Caltech.  Stamps and cachets, as well as Feynman books and memorabilia, will be available for purchase.

At 4 p.m. there will be a screening of the classic documentary featuring Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, also in Ramo Auditorium.  The program at 5 p.m. will highlight guest speakers, including Caltech physicists, the Pasadena postmaster, and Michelle Feynman, the daughter of Richard Feynman and editor of Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman.

The American Scientist series features the likenesses of four scientists: Nobel Prize-winning geneticist and 1930s Caltech postdoctoral scholar Barbara McClintock, mathematician John von Neumann, and thermodynamicist Josiah Willard Gibbs, along with Feynman.  The American Scientist series will be issued this month.

“U.S. commemorative stamps portray individuals, subjects, and events that are instrumental to the American experience,” says David Failor, executive director of stamp services for the U.S. Postal Service. For each stamp in this series of four, artist Victor Stabin has created a collage featuring a portrait of the scientist along with drawings that are associated with major contributions made by the scientist.  Text on the back of the stamps highlights their achievements.  The Feynman text says, “Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988) developed a new formulation of quantum theory based, in part, on diagrams he invented to help him visualize the dynamics of atomic particles.  In 1965, this noted theoretical physicist, enthusiastic educator and amateur artist was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.” The Feynman diagrams featured on the stamp represent the interaction between certain subatomic particles.  Feynman diagrams, which helped to simplify calculations, are a fundamental of modern physics and are still in common use today.

Feynman’s academic career at Caltech spanned almost 30 years.  Friend and colleague Barry Barish, the Linde Professor of Physics and director of Caltech’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, who worked with Feynman for approximately 25 years at Caltech, says, “After Einstein, Dick Feynman was, perhaps, the smartest man of the 20th Century.  He helped to reshape and reinvent methods of modern particle physics.  His contributions to science were extremely significant and essential.”

Perhaps Feynman’s greatest legacy at Caltech was not only his pioneering research, but also his passion for teaching; Feynman was revered as a professor.  He had an extraordinary ability to inspire and motivate his students, and to share his excitement about science and physics.  His lively personality and fun-loving sense of humor were almost as renowned as his research.  Feynman was an avid drummer, artist, and actor, and he had a great affinity for languages, even teaching himself Japanese, Portuguese, and Mayan. He was legendary for his colorful yet brilliant character.

In 1965 Feynman won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in the field of quantum electrodynamics.  Feynman made major contributions to the development of the atomic bomb while at the Los Alamos National laboratory during his 20s. In 1986, at the request of President Reagan, he served on the committee to investigate the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

In February 1988, at the age of 69, Feynman died of cancer.

SpaceRef staff editor.