Iowa State University

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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, manager,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

11-11-04

Contacts:

Kenneth Jolls, Chemical Engineering, (515) 294-5222

Pam Reinig, Engineering Communications and Marketing,
(515) 294-0261

Annette Hacker, News Service, (515) 294-3720

ISU professor helps develop postage stamp honoring noted scientist

AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University professor has been instrumental in developing a new first-class stamp that pays tribute to an American scientist.

This month, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled its 2005 series, "American Scientists," which includes a stamp honoring Josiah Willard Gibbs, a noted 19th century thermodynamicist.

Kenneth Jolls, ISU professor of chemical engineering, was invited to consult on the stamp's design when Postal Service researchers came across his Web site on Gibbs' work.

Gibbs is widely acknowledged for developing modern thermodynamic analysis, a method for describing transfers of energy between systems and their surroundings as dictated by the laws of thermodynamics (nature's rules concerning what can and can't be done with energy).

Although sometimes referred to as a chemist, Gibbs was a thermodynamicist, according to Jolls. At his request, the Postal Service changed Gibbs' title on the stamp.

Jolls also advised the Postal Service to include the defining equation of Gibbs' most famous thermodynamics model in the stamp's design.

Jolls says his greatest victory in influencing the design came with the emphasis on the visual interpretation of Gibbs' ideas. The Postal Service wanted suggestions for a design to accompany Gibbs' photograph.

"Gibbs wrote three papers about his formulation of thermodynamics, the exact basis of what we do today. Some of his explanations used very clever visual analogies. But, surprisingly, Gibbs drew almost no pictures," Jolls said.

However, Gibbs sent his formulations to the renowned British inventor and visual thinker, J. C. Maxwell. For the stamp, the Postal Service selected an image from Maxwell's 1875 "Treatise on Heat," which Jolls had found at the library at the University of California, Berkeley.

Jolls' Web site, "Gibbs Models," is at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~jolls/. It is based on research by Daniel Coy, Jolls' former doctoral student and director of engineering at Nanophase Technologies Corporation, Romeoville, Ill.

The American Scientists stamps will be available to the public in April. Other scientists in the series include geneticist Barbara McClintock, mathematician John von Neumann and physicist Richard Feynman.

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Josiah Willard Gibbs stamp

Josiah Willard Gibbs stamp
For a print-quality photo contact News Service at 294-3720

About the stamp design

The Josiah Willard Gibbs stamp is a photo collage created by Victor Stabin. The portrait of Gibbs is a photograph taken from collections of the American Institute of Physics' Emilio Segre Visual Archives; it was made toward the end of Gibbs' life, at about the time of his final publication in 1902. The background illustration is "Figure 26d, Thermal lines on the model," which first appeared in the fourth edition (1875) of "Theory of Heat" by Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell.