Turing Bombe stamp

One2ten Stamps

The appearance of World War Two code breaker Alan Turing and steam engine inventor Thomas Newcomen in the Royal Mail's 'Britons of Distinction' series of stamps is not the first philatelic celebration of engineering.

1 Turing Bombe Alan Turing FRS OBE (1912-1954) contributed to mathematics, computer science, cryptanalysis, logic and many other branches of science.

In 1939 Turing was involved in the design of electro-mechanical machines ('bombes'), based on the earlier work of Polish cryptanalysts and used to decipher Enigma code. In 1945 he joined the National Physical Laboratory in London to design and develop an electronic computer – a concrete form of the universal Turing machine. His developments in computing science led to his pioneering work in Artificial Intelligence.

Alan Turing's code-breaking machine, the 'Turing Bombe', is illustrated on a new first-class stamp as part of a set issued on 23 February 2012.

2 The Thames Barrier As part of the Europe-wide theme for 'Europa 1983', the Engineering Achievement issue of Great Britain included the Thames Flood Barrier on the 20'p stamp designed by M Taylor.

The concept of the rotating gates was devised by Charles Draper. The barrier, designed by Rendel, Palmer and Tritton, was tested at the Hydraulics Research Station, Wallingford. The construction site at New Charlton was selected for its straight banks and the underlying chalk, which was strong enough to support the barrier. Work began on the barrier in 1974 and was largely completed by 1982.

3 Man on the Moon This singular event is beautifully illustrated on a USA 33¢ stamp by the simple image of the lunar boot footprint in the dust of the Moon. The stamp is part of the 1960s sheet which was in turn part of the millennium issue of sheets each showing US iconic images throughout the decades. The footprint represents the culmination of the scientific and engineering developments required to achieve putting a man on the Moon.

4 The Schickard Mechanical Calculator The German polymath Wilhelm Schickard (1592-1635) designed a calculating machine in 1623, some 20 years before Pascal's calculator. Unfortunately the project came to an end when fire destroyed the first machine as it was being built in 1624.

Celebrating the machine's 350th anniversary, this 40Pf stamp, issued in 1974 by West Germany, shows a line drawing of the original Schickard mechanical calculator.

5 CERN (Organisation Européenne pour la recherche nucléaire) The high-energy particle accelerator is one of the most complex structural, electrical and mechanical engineering projects ever undertaken. A 1.40 franc stamp issued in 1976 by France shows a symbolic layout plan of the accelerator with particle traces.

6 Ironbridge The first single-span arch bridge to be made entirely out of cast iron. Until industrial and engineering developments in the Severn Valley area during the 18th century, iron had been far too expensive to use for large structures. However, the new blast furnaces nearby had lowered the cost. Raised in 1779, the bridge became one of the wonders of the world and attracted visitors from far and wide. This is still true today as the bridge makes up part of the World Heritage site at Ironbridge. The bridge is seen depicted on the 19p from the 1989 Industrial Archaeology set of Great Britain.

7 Shinkansen Bullet Train The Tokaido Shinkansen began service on 1 October 1964, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics, and used the classic '0' series train. It is illustrated on the Japanese commemorative stamp from 1982. Running at 137mph, this early high-speed rail system led the way for railways around the world. The last '0' class unit was retired in 2008.

8 SS Great Britain Designed and built by the much celebrated engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, this colossal steamship was launched in 1843 and was by far the largest vessel afloat. She was also the first large ocean-going vessel to be constructed out of iron and equipped with a screw propeller.

In 1845, she was the first iron ship to cross the Atlantic and achieved this in 14 days. As part of the National Historical Fleet the SS Great Britain can still be seen at Bristol Docks.

This 1969 stamp, issued as part of the British Ships series, was designed by one of the best-loved stamp designers in Great Britain, D Gentleman.

9 Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde The supersonic jet liner made its maiden voyage in 1969 and is graphically illustrated on the UK's 9d stamp, issued to celebrate that first flight. The stamps were designed by British designer D Gentleman. Concorde represents the peak of civil aeronautical engineering and still remains an iconic machine. A number of Concordes were preserved and there is currently an attempt to make one flightworthy for use in demonstrations.

10 Nuclear Power Nuclear power plants are rarely illustrated on stamps owing to the controversy surrounding nuclear generation. However, the opening of the advanced gas cool reactor at Windscale was included in the 1966 British Technology set as the 1s 6d. These stamps were designed by A Restall.

The first prototype advanced gas cool reactor became operational in 1962 but the first commercial AGR did not come on line until 1976.

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them