Sunday, 17 July 2016


On the centenary of the birth of x-ray crystallography the UN designated 2014 to be the Year of Crystallography.  This process allows that the chemical bonds that draw atoms together can be seen and indeed the Curiosity Rover used x-ray crystallography to analyze soil samples on Mars.  Liechtenstein issued two stamps, called Metamorphosis Sequence 1 and
Metamorphosis  Sequence 2 which show how a crystal grows over thousands of years.

 The stamps have an image code that can be scanned by a free SEPAC app which enables a video animation of the metamorphosis of the crystal to be seen.
The visualisation theme is continued in the Maximum Cards which are screenshots from an interactive program where one can guide a spaceship through quartz, fluorite or diamond crystal structures.
The program called Crystal Flight was created by Jeff Weeks and shown at the Museum for Minerals and Mathematics, Oberwolfach whose collection contains unique minerals of the Black Forest region.  A very short Crystal Flight video can be seen here
Royal Mail did not join in the 2014 Year of Crystallography however the 2010 set celebrating the 350th Anniversary of the Royal Society had featured
Dorothy Hodgkin (19019-1994) who developed protein crystallography where she determined the structure of penicillin, Vitamin B12 and insulin.  Working in those early years she was continually trying to improve the technique of x ray crystallography and with the help of one of the first electronic computers solved the 100 atom structure of Vitamin B12 in 1957.   She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964.   Lawrence Bragg likened her B12 discovery to "breaking the sound barrier"  He too has a stamp as one of the pioneers of x-ray crystallography whose discovery of x-ray diffraction is basic for determining crystal structures.
1977: British Achievement in Chemistry
The stamp shows the regular cubic spacing of sodium and chlorine (which he predicted), in salt.  Lawrence Bragg was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1916 at the age of 25 for his work in crystal structures.  The other stamps shows the colourful patterns on paper produced by chromatography and celebrates Martin and Synge's Nobel Prize of 1952
The orange may be a clue to this stamp for it is the synthesis of a molecule for vitamin C. Norman Haworth shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1937 for vitamin research.  Lastly the stamp celebrates conformational analysis, a process pioneered by Derek Barton using steroids and deals with the shapes that molecules can adopt by rotations about single bonds. A Nobel Prize winner in 1969 his name is remembered in science by a number of reactions named after him in organic chemistry .

An entry to Sunday Stamps II theme - Science - discover more at See It On A Postcard  


Heleen said...

Very interesting stamps!
I didn't know of the Year of Crystallography, good to see such nice stamps!

The four colourful Royal Mail stamps on bottom are new to me, and they are definitely my favourites!

Bob Scotney said...

I missed out on these it seems - inexcusable as I studied crystallography as part of a university course.

viridian said...

Love all of these stamps. It's rare to have crystallography on a stamp, thanks for collecting these.

VioletSky said...

Now that I see you GB stamps, I think I even have them, somewhere.
There is some amazing technology happening with some stamps, and yet all our country can do is moan about the cost, and that "no-one ever buys stamps" (patently not true)