Mathematical Stamp Collecting
One of my hobbies is collecting stamps that either commemorate a mathematician or have a mathematical theme. Surprisingly, there are quite a few, and I have around 700 in my collection (I don't have all of these mounted, however). Years ago, large department stores sometimes had departments that sold stamps for collectors. About 30 years ago I was killing time at the May D & F department store in Denver by browsing in the stamp department, and I found some mathematical stamps. My wife framed them and I hung them in my office. We moved to Winston-Salem in 1972, and since there were no stamp stores here, I didn't collect any more stamps for a number of years. About ten years ago I started going to stamp shows and bought more mathematical stamps. It was a very time-consuming process, for I was finding my stamps by direct examination. I then learned about the Mathematical Study Unit of the American Topical Association through Robin Wilson's very interesting stamp column in the Mathematical Intelligencer. A list of mathematical stamps, listed with Scott numbers, is available from the MSU. With the list I am now able to search for stamps by country and number; while it is still a slow process, it is nevertheless much quicker than before. Fortunately, most stamps of interest to mathematicians are not very expensive.
The Mathematical Study Unit of the American Topical Association is a small (several hundred) group of people who are interested in collecting stamps that portray a mathematical theme. The United States has not issued many such stamps (even if you stretch the point), but surprisingly worldwide many such stamps have been issued. The MSU publishes a journal Philamath that has many interesting articles. Here is a sample issue:Philamath.
You may join the Mathematical Study Unit and receive Philamath by sending your dues ($10.00 per year in North America, $13.00 per year elsewhere) to the Secretary-Treasurer:
My stamp album consists of a series of articles, usually historical or biographical in nature, with pictures of the stamps inserted in the appropriate places. Here are a few of the sample articles. My hope is that these articles will be of interest to young students interested in mathematics. I would appreciate receiving any comments you might have. You may email me email@example.com.
The International Congress of Mathematicians is held every four years. Several countries have issued stamps in honor of congresses they hosted.
Many stamps have been issued commemorating the metric system. Here is a small sampling of such stamps together with a short description of its conception; this is doubly interesting to mathematicians, since Lagrange served as president of the original commission.
Polish mathematicians played an important role in twentieth century mathematics, and this is very surprising to many nonmathematicians; I was once asked to give a talk to the Wake Forest Math Club, but I was only given twenty minutes to talk! What is even more surprising is that it didn't happen by chance; it was planned as an outgrowth of Polish nationalism when the country was reunited by the Treaty of Versailles after WW I. I wrote the following as an article for Philamath.
In addition to stamps, I have a number of first day covers that have mathematical themes. Please feel free toView them.
Last year Wake Forest Magazine published an article featuring various faculty members and their hobbies; part of the article portrayed metogether with a short description of my collection. In the picture I am holding one of my many pages of stamps honoring Copernicus. He has been honored on stamps more than any other mathematician, since just about every country issued a stamp in his honor on the five-hundredth anniversary of his birth in 1973.
I know of two web sites that contain large collections of images of mathematical stamps.
|Webring: Mathematics on Stamps|
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