Royal Mail have announced the launch of the 'Inventive Britain' Special Stamp set, issued to mark a long and rich history of Britain as an inventive nation.
The stamps depict striking photographs and computer-generated interpretations of inventions created by British inventors over the last century: Colossus computer, World Wide Web, Catseyes, Fibre Optics, Stainless Steel, Carbon Fibre, DNA Sequencing and the i-limb.
The Colossus stamp featured in the set has a close association with Royal Mail. It was designed and built by GPO employee, Tommy Flowers.
The machine was built during the Second World War to decipher messages being sent between high-ranking officials in Germany and army commanders in the field. The Lorenz cypher encrypted these strategic communications and the principles to decipher it had been discovered in 1942. The following year, GPO engineer Tommy Flowers was set the task of developing an efficient device to rapidly speed up the decryption process.
His proposal for Colossus, which involved the use of large numbers of thermionic valves, was initially met with much scepticism, but he persevered. Based at the GPO Research Station in Dollis Hill, Flowers worked with a dedicated team of engineers, scientists and technicians. By December 1943, they had completed the first 5-tonne Colossus machine. This became operational at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park.
It took decades for the information to be declassified. Only then, was Colossus acknowledged as the world's first electronic, digital and programmable computer, and the work of Tommy Flowers and his team was finally recognised. The new stamp includes a representation of the ticker tape that inputted data, and on it is the symbolic word 'PEACE'.
Rhys Morgan, Director of Education at The Royal Academy of Engineering said: "This excellent collection of stamps shows British innovation and engineering at its best. It is truly an inspiring set of innovations that have had a global impact."
Andrew Hammond, Royal Mail Director of Stamps and Collectibles, said, “Great Britain has a long and proud history of developing world-changing innovations. From the splitting of the atom to the discovery of penicillin to the invention of the jet engine, Britain's creative and resourceful spirit has not been restricted to any particular field, crossing the breadth of science and technology, engineering and medicine. The eight inventions featured on the stamps comprise only a handful of the transformative great British inventions from the century.”
In addition to the stamps, Royal Mail will also be issuing special 'Inventive Britain' postmarks across the country from 20-28 February. Post across the country will (except Sunday) will be stamped with a message dedicated to one of the inventions.
Also, in locations where there are strong links to the inventors, Royal Mail vans will feature an image of the relevant stamp from the 'Inventive Britain' issue. They are; Halifax; Epsom; Sheffield; Edinburgh; Cirencester; Dumfries; Docklands and Mortlake.