Earth Scientists on Stamps

Following the Royal Mail's release of some lovely new Darwin stamps, a few of us got to Twittering over lunch yesterday about the lack of geologists on this year's release of American scientist stamps.

(What's that? You have no idea what Twittering is? It's a stupid Web Eleventy-Point-Oh jibber-jabber service, pay no attention. If you are an Eleventy-Point-Oh sort of person, though, perhaps you should be following me.)

Googling around a bit for existing stamps that feature earth scientists, I found the pickings to be surprisingly slim. Alfred Wegener has been on stamps issued by both East Germany and Greenland, but not in recognition of his ill-fated early support of continental drift. The stamps honored his work in polar meteorology (Wegener died on an ill-fated scientific expedition to collect the first full year of weather data in interior Greenland).

Other earth scientists with stamps:

The question we were having fun with at lunch, though, is this: Which earth scientists would you pick to put on stamps?

To avoid making this too simple an exercise in listing off a bunch of awesome dead earth scientists, I'm going to stick to a themed (at least by nationality) set of four. My suggestions for the USPS:

Yes, I booted Harry Hess in favor of Marie Tharp in order to fill a diversity box. It's a set of stamps, yo; it is not just a straightforward list of the people whose names are already in the history books, it is a sneaky kind of aspirational statement. I'm disappointed that I failed on the racial/ethnic diversity box; if anyone has suggestions I would love to hear them. Remember, though, stamps are always posthumous honors.

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John Wesley Powell seems like a trite, obvious choice, but you just know if the USPS does decide to honor geotypes, he'll be at the top of the list. For the diversity, I would nominate Florence Bascom.

I am out in the field, and cannot remember if he made it to a stamp, but Sir Douglas Mawson is on the $100 Australian banknote.

Norman L. Bowen would be a candidate for a US stamp.

Louis Agassiz, Charles Lyell, Wallace Broecker, Nicholas Shackleton, Lonnie Thompson, Sue Hendrickson, and Roger Revelle.
I suppose one could argue some of those do not qualify as 'earth scientists'.

GKG is a good choice, but some llewelly's nominations fail the posthumous test.

Agassiz's legacy is tarnished by his creepy racism. He really shouldn't get a stamp until after all the scientists who make better role models have been appropriately honored.

Isn't Broecker still alive?

Also, I think Inge Lehmann deserves a stamp simply because her big discovery is attributed to Mohorovicic in the stamp pictured above.

If the discovery has already made the cut, it might as well be properly attributed.

Maria Brumm | February 19, 2009 9:34 PM

Agassiz's legacy is tarnished by his creepy racism. He really shouldn't get a stamp until after all the scientists who make better role models have been appropriately honored.

I hadn't known Agassiz's creepy racism was any worse than typical for his time period. Since seeing your comment, I've done some more reading on Agassiz, and I now agree with you. Thank you for the correction.

Science Woman, Lab Lemming, Broecker and Thompson are both still alive. I didn't realize that was a disqualifying criteria, but if it is they're both out. (My list was too long anyway.)

I'd put Helen Tappan Loeblich on a stamp; any microfossil stratigrapher would know why.

Why not Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Marsh? And Dana and Clarence King and of course Harry Hess too.

Sir Douglas Mawson has featured on several Australian stamps.

I'd add William Smith to the list.

Douglas Mawson has left the Australian $100 note in favour of others - Monash and Nicholls. A shame - the $100 image was the frontespiece of my M. Sc. thesis on rocks Mawson studied in the Northern Flinders Ranges, and the note design included one of his cross sections that showed my sequence.

Wegener is honoured by an ?80s vintage ?DDR stamp I have somewhere - not to hand as I write this note - that lacks his image, but shows his continental drift reconstruction. I suspect it is the first continental drift stamp ever issued.

And yes - a big shout for Bill Smith.

By David Hilyard (not verified) on 24 Feb 2009 #permalink

Okay, I know very little geology, but the Mohorovicic Discontinuity Layer rocks my world, but then again, I'm a huge moho.

By Pareidolius (not verified) on 28 Feb 2009 #permalink