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Campus ceremony will celebrate new stamp for physicist John Bardeen

bardeen stamp
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Two-time Nobel Prize-winner John Bardeen, a former U. of I. professor of physics and of electrical engineering, will be honored with a U.S. postage stamp to be unveiled on campus March 6.


James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A stamp commemorating the achievements of former University of Illinois faculty member and two-time Nobel Prize-winner John Bardeen will be unveiled at a ceremony on campus March 6 (Thursday).

The U. of I. physics department will host Urbana Postmaster Kathleen J. Burr, regional U.S. Postal Service officials, university administrators, and family and friends of Bardeen (1908-1991) at the ceremony. The event is free and open to the public. It will begin at 12:15 p.m., in room 144 of Loomis Laboratory, 1110 W. Green St., Urbana.

“We are absolutely delighted to see John Bardeen remembered in this way,” said Dale J. Van Harlingen, the head of the physics department. “It is particularly timely that he is being honored this year: May 23, 2008, will mark the centennial of his birth. We are very pleased that the Urbana postmaster chose to have the ceremony here in Loomis, where professor Bardeen studied and taught for 30 years.”

One of four American scientists being honored this year, Bardeen was recognized for his co-invention of the transistor and his contribution to the first fundamental explanation of superconductivity. For each of these achievements, Bardeen was awarded a Nobel Prize. (The other scientists being recognized are biochemist Gerty Cori, chemist Linus Pauling, and astronomer Edwin Hubble.)

“John Bardeen was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century,” said Nick Holonyak Jr., a John Bardeen Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics. Holonyak, who invented the first practical light-emitting diode and currently is developing transistor lasers, was Bardeen’s first graduate student.

“Bardeen was arguably the greatest master ever of the quantum theory of the conductivity of solids, which is at the core, the very heart of all of electronics,” Holonyak said. “Legendary names in physics failed for almost 50 years in explaining the mystery of superconductivity until the successful Bardeen attack on the problem, which also introduced revolutionary particle-pairing notions into all of physics.

“Perhaps more vital to everyone on the planet is the transistor, and all it has spawned,” Holonyak said. “No one sought so little for himself, gave so much, and was so generous and considerate of his fellow man.”

To mark the event, the Champaign-Urbana Stamp Club has created a first-day cover, incorporating a cachet featuring drawings of Bardeen and Loomis Laboratory, created by local artist Jason Pankoke, and bearing the stamp and a special first-day Urbana cancel.  These will be available after the ceremony for $3 each.