30 No. 3
Designing the Periodic Table Stamp
When the Spanish General Post Office (Correos) proposed, through my friend Roman Polo, that I (Javier García-Martínez) design this stamp, I was writing a review article about philately dedicated to Mendeleev, recently published in Anales de Química—the official journal of the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistry.1 Spain has relatively few stamps on science and technology. In fact, until the creation of the stamp dedicated to Mendeleev’s Periodic Table, there was only one Spanish stamp clearly related to chemistry, although at least 15 stamps are devoted to related subjects. This is the 1983 stamp Bicentenario del Descubrimiento del Wolframio that celebrates the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the element wolfram by Juan José Delhuyar (1754–1796) and his brother Fausto (1755–1833).2
From the beginning, it was clear to me that this would be a great opportunity to present a modern and positive image of chemistry. I wanted my design to be radically different from the more traditional stamps previously issued. Piet Mondrian’s (1872–1944) Neo-Plasticism served as my inspiration. The colorful box-like designs of his paintings are very suitable to a new version of the Periodic Table, with bright plain colors, thick black borders, and simplified forms. I chose the colors of each block from the ones used on the webelements webpage3 as a tribute to a modern, online periodic table that receives thousands of hits per day. This new version of the Periodic Table features four void spaces corresponding to the elements predicted by Mendeleev: ekaboron (scandium), ekaaluminum (gallium), ekasilicon (germanium), and ekamanganese (technetium). These have been included to celebrate Mendeleev’s genius; he not only ordered the known elements, but predicted the existence of new elements, and even their properties with amazing accuracy; something that allowed for an early confirmation of his Periodic Law. A recent issue of Philatelia Chimica et Physica, which has on its cover this new stamp, includes an article in which I describe in detail some relevant aspects of this stamp. For those interested, this is a good source of additional information.4
1. J. García-Martínez, J. Salas Peregrín, “La Química Através de sus Sellos: Una Revisión Comparativa de la Filatelia Dedicada a Mendeléiev” An. Quím. 103(1), 50–57 2007.
2. a) J. J. de Luyart, y F. de Luyart “Analisis Quimico del Volfram, y Exàmen de un Nuevo Metal, que Entra en su Composicion,” Extractos de las Juntas Generales Celebradas por la Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País, Vitoria, September 1783, pp. 46–88. b) J. J. D’Elhuyar, F. D’Elhuyar “Chemical Analysis of Wolframite and Examination of a New Metal Entering into its Composition,” Extracts of General Meetings, Academy of the Sciences, Inscriptions and Belles Letters of Toulouse (1784), b) J. A. Schufle “Juan Jose D’Elhuyar, Discovery of Tungsten,” J. Chem. Educ. 52, 325, 1975; c) P. Román Polo, Los Hermanos Delhuyar, la Bascongada y el Wolframio, Ed. Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País. Comisión de Vizcaya. Bilbao. 2000.
3. a) Webelements webpage <www.webelements.com>.
b) A note on this stamp in the news site of the webelements
4. J. García-Martínez, “Remembering Mendeleev’s Centenary: Spain Issues the First Stamp Dedicated to the Periodic Table,” Philatelia Chimica et Physica 29(3), 132–139, 2007.
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