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Inventive Britain: - 19 February 2015
The Inventive Britain stamp issue celebrates the vital and creative aspect of the national character with eight key inventions of the past century in a range of disciplines and applications, from materials to medicine. From the splitting of the atom to the discovery of penicillin to the jet engine and in vitro fertilisation, Britains creative and resourceful spirit has not been bound by any particular field, crossing the breadth of science and technology, engineering and medicine. The eight inventions featured on the stamps, from the mighty Colossus to super-strong carbon fibres, comprise only a handful of the transformative great British inventions from the 20th and 21st centuries.
The booklet, as usual, has a unique Machin definitive pane containing 8 stamps. In this case there is just one set of stamps, 1p, 2p, 81p, 97p and the 81p is actually printed in the wrong colour. Sold with a 93p premium over face value.
1st Class Colossus – The worlds first electronic digital computer
Inventor: Tommy Flowers. The world's first electronic computer deciphered coded messages sent between Berlin and battlefield commanders via the Germans' Lorenz cypher machine in World War 2. Flowers was a Post Office engineer based at Dollis Hill in London, and he constructed the first Colossus in December 1943.
1st Class World Wide Web – Revolutionary global communications system
Inventor: Tim Berners-Lee. A software Engineer at CERN in Switzerland in the 1980s Berners-Lee realised that visiting scientists to the laboratory were limited in the ways in which theycould share information. He saw the Internet as a way to achieve data sharing. He created the technology that forms the basis for the World Wide Web. Protocols he developed include HTML the computer mark-up language which forms the basis of this and every page, and the way in which they are linked.
81p Catseyes - Light reflecting road safety innovation
Inventor - Percy Shaw. The inventor of a road-surfacing business, Shaw invented Catseyes in 1934 but they only took off a decade later when demand increased considerably during the blackouts of World War 2. The studs are simply four glass beads, covered with a reflective layer that captures the glow of headlights and beams it back out. The beads are set in a rubber housing inserted in a cast-iron base. The flexible rubber casing allows the reflectors to sink down into the road surface when driven over, which prevents them from damage and cleans them with rainwater caught in the base.
81p Fibre Optics – Pioneering rapid-data-transfer technology
Inventors Charles Kao and George Hockham. Fibre optic cables form a global communications network that transmits massive amounts of digital information - internet, telephone, email - at amazingly fast speeds. It is the technological foundation of the internet. Kao and Hockham first demonstrated the possibilities in 1966. The first trans-Pacific copper cable could handle less than 100 phones calls at once: today's fibre optic system can carry over a billion calls simultaneously.
£1.28 Stainless Steel – Non-corrosive, versatile, 100% recyclable alloy
Inventor - Harry Brearley. In 1914 Brearley created the first commercially-viable corrosion-resistant stainless steel, a mix of iron, carbon and at least 11% chromium. He originally called it 'rustless steel'. Stainless steel is very versatile, being used for heart valves and scalpels to everyday uses in cutlery, washing machine drums, road tankers and razors.
£1.28 Carbon Fibre – High strength, lightweight, composite material
Inventor - William Watt. Carbon fibres are thin filaments integrated into resin and baked to create a reinforced plastic,much stronger but much lighter than metal. US scientists were researching how to produce carbon fibre in the 1950s-60sbut it was the Scotsman Watt who manufactureda superior version of the substance in 1964. Used where lightness and toughness are important: spacecraft, aircraft, wind turbines and racing cars.
£1.47 DNA Sequencing – Revolution in understanding the genome
Inventor - Frederick Sanger. In the 1960s-70s Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Dr Sanger developed a ground-breaking method of mapping the DNA, the chemical code in our bodies' cells containing the instructions for creating life-building proteins. By analysing the strands of DNA Sanger discerned the sequence, enabling later scientists to sequence the human genome, which in turn helps transform modern medicine and treatment.
£1.47 i-limb. – Bionic hand with individually powered digits
Inventor - David Gow. A revolutionary bionic hand, the i-limb boasts a rotatable thumb and individually articulated fingers. Invented by Gow, a former National Health Service employee, it was launched in 2007. A user merely needs to think about a handmovement to transmit anelectronic signal from their brain to manipulate muscles in their arm.