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Physicists on Banknotes


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Over in World and Ancient Coins, Tabbs (Christian) wrote:


Later this year, San Marino will issue another €2 commem, dedicated to the World Year of Physics (see http://www.wyp2005.org/). This is the coin ...




So, that brings up one of my favorite topics, Physicists on Banknotes. It is actually a series I pursue actively. However, I am stuck for about six, mostly high value, of course. It is pretty easy to buy a nice Galileo, the lira never being worth much even into the 1000s. Niels Bohr is pricy, but the hardest one to afford is Benjamin Franklin. We Americans forget his achievement in science and we pass off the kite thing as a trick. The Royal Society, however, recognized him not so much for the kite, per se, as for his theoretical explanation of what electricity "is." So, that is a $100 bill. Copernicus on the zillion zloty is much easier.


This theme has propagated through the WWW and can be found in many places. Among them:



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do astrophysicists count?


Is that the Armenian astronomer V.A. Ambartsumian "our greatest scientist. He was the IAU Vice-President in 1948-55 and President in 1961-64, twice elected the ICSU President (1968-72), was honorary member of 28 academies and societies. Ambartsumian was the President of the Armenian Academy of Sciences during 1947-1993 and the Director of BAO during 1946-1988. Those times the Byurakan Observatory was one of the main astronomical centres in the world."



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hmmm....both of those sites left out out [Alhazan]


I have that note!

The new Iraq 10000 Dinar honoring "Alhazan" (Abu Ali Hasan Ibn al-Haitham) is not in these archives that tend to be from 1999 and forward.


His contribution to mathematics and physics was extensive. In mathematics, he developed analytical geometry by establishing linkage between algebra and geometry. He studied the mechanics of motion of a body and was the first to maintain that a body moves perpetually unless an external force stops it or changes its direction of motion. This would seem equivalent to the first law of motion.

(http://www.famousmuslims.com ... click on Scientists then on Great Optician: ABU ALI HASAN IBN AL-HAITHAM)


Alhazen, also known as Abu Ali Hasan Ibn al-Haitham (present-day Iraq), used spherical and parabolic mirrors to study spherical aberration and gives the first accurate account of vision--that the eyes receive light, rather than transmit it. Alhazen also investigated magnification resulting from atmospheric refraction and writes about the anatomy of the human eye and describes how the lens forms an image on the retina in his famous major optical work "Opticae Thesaurus" (Opticae thesaurus Alhazeni libri vii), the first real contribution to the the science of optics in the first millennium. He used the camera obscura effect in the study of eclipses, and notes that images appear clearer when the pinhole size is reduced.



ALHAZEN (IBN AL HAITAM) - (965 - 1039)

Abu Ali Mohamed ibn al-Hasan Ign al-Haytham (also: ibn al-Haitam) was an Arabian scientist and scholar, also known as 'Alhazan'. He was one of the earliest, to write and describe optical theory. He studied light, the nature of vision, the eye, and solar and lunar eclipses. His early experiments led to a forerunner of the [CAMERA OBSCURA] which he used to prove that light travels in straight lines. He also studied reflection and refraction, and published a book on optics in 1038. Alhazan's work became an historical reference work in the evolution of optics.

His treatise on optics was translated into Latin by Witelo (1270) and afterwards published by F. Rismer in 1572 with the title "Opticae Thesauris Alhazeni Libri VII cum ejusdem libro de crepusculis et nubium ascensionibus" Other manuscripts are preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford and in the Library of Leiden.


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Of those listed on the sites, I have Rutherford, Schrödinger, The Curies on the 500F, Euler, Gauss, a very ratty, circulated Faraday, Vega, Birkeland, Gallileo, Rømer, Marconi and Volta. Also Ambartsumian and Ibn Al Haitan


Also, mmarotta, the Schrödinger note (In UNC) is more epxensive then the US $100, ALOT more. Even face is something like $120.


I still don't have a Newton 1 Pound..anyone know were to get one for cheap? Also, anyone know of were to get an UNC Democritus? All the ones on ebay are either circulated or charge $5 for shipping...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is another link:



If you search for PHYSICISTS BANKNOTES many of the hits (such as this one from the American Institute of Physics: http://www.aip.org/history/web-link.htm) will point to the original pages here:



Mentioned above already was this one:


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While this may be a serious stretch, has anyone considered the "Educational Series" of U. S. Silver Certificates of 1896? As I recall, there are numerous names [if not images] of folks from the US who could be loosely refered to as "physicists."


Just my US$0.02 worth...

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While this may be a serious stretch, has anyone considered the "Educational Series" of U. S. Silver Certificates of 1896?  As I recall, there are numerous names [if not images] of folks from the US who could be loosely refered to as  "physicists." 


Robert Fulton and Samuel Morse on the $2 back.

The $1 "Blanche DuBois" has the Washingtons G & M on the back.

The $5 "No Comment" has Grant and Sheridan on the back.

Apparently the $10 and $50 were never issued, and exist as Proofs only, and face only at that.


Funny thing, but like Edison, Morse and Fulton -- and James Watt among many, many others -- is an "inventor" not a "physicist." Except for Franklin and others before the the 19th century, I think that formal education, a univesity degree of some kind, and a university teaching tenure are among the requirements for being a "physicist." Thus, Tesla was, but Edison was not; and Volta was, but Morse was not.


That is just my estimation of mainstream thought on this. Personally, I would agree that if you want a complete set of physicists, then you need Fulton and Morse.


You can find stunning displays of the Educational notes at the Harry Bass website: http://www.harrybassfoundation.org/home.asp

in the Gallery under Notes.

One thing is that the Designer's Proof for the $5 actually had them clothed.

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