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Nobel prize
Royal Mail's Nobel Prizes stamps celebrate 100 years of Nobel Prizes as well as Britain's proud record in all walks of scientific and academic life.

Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm on October 21, 1833. His father Immanuel Nobel was an engineer and inventor who built bridges and buildings in Stockholm. He was also a pioneer in arms manufacture and in designing steam engines. In 1842, Immanuel Nobel brought his family to St. Petersburg. There, his sons were given a first class education by private teachers. By the age of 17 Alfred Nobel was fluent in Swedish, Russian, French, English and German. His primary interests were in English literature and poetry as well as in chemistry and physics.

Over the next two years Alfred Nobel visited Sweden, Germany, France and the United States. In Paris, the city he came to like best, he met the young Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero who, three years earlier, had invented nitro-glycerine, a highly explosive liquid.

To make the handling of nitro-glycerine safer Alfred Nobel experimented with different additives. He soon found that mixing nitro-glycerine with silica would turn the liquid into a paste which could be shaped into rods of a size and form suitable for insertion into drilling holes. In 1867 he patented this material under the name of dynamite. To be able to detonate the dynamite rods he also invented a detonator (blasting cap) which could be ignited by lighting a fuse. By the time of his death in 1896 he had 355 patents.

At the age of 46, Nobel had advertised in a newspaper for a "lady of mature age, versed in languages as secretary and supervisor of household." Countess Bertha Kinsky applied and worked for Nobel for a short time before deciding to return to Austria to marry Count Arthur von Suttner. However, Alfred Nobel and Bertha von Suttner remained friends and kept writing letters to each other for decades. Over the years Bertha von Suttner became increasingly critical of the arms race and became a prominent figure in the peace movement. No doubt this influenced Alfred Nobel when he wrote his final will which was to include a Prize for persons or organisations who promoted peace. Several years after the death of Alfred Nobel, the Norwegian Storting (Parliament) decided to award the 1905 Nobel Peace Prize to Bertha von Suttner.

Alfred Nobel died in San Remo, Italy, on December 10, 1896. When his will was opened it came as a surprise that his fortune was to be used for Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace and the Nobel Foundation was formed.

All of the six printing processes for these stamps have been used separately on stamps before. What makes Nobel Prizes unique is that it combines all six in one Special Stamp issue for the first time ever with some processes used for the first time on UK Stamps.

Thermochromic (2nd Class) - Thermochromic, or heat-reactive inks are a relatively new innovation, disappearing or changing colour rapidly when exposed to temperatures above their set level. When the ink is warmed for a few seconds the colour will disappear and as the ink cools the colour returns.

Intaglio (1st Class) - The very first postage stamps were produced by the intaglio printing process. The heavy film of ink applied to the paper under great pressure gives the ink a texture which is apparent to the touch.

Embossing (E) - Embossed images are achieved by compressing paper between a male and female die to deform the paper and leave an image in relief on the surface.

Scented (40p) - This is the first time that scented ink has been used on British postage stamps. The ink works by encapsulating scent within micro bubbles held within the ink itself. As the ink surface is damaged by scratching, the bubbles burst and the scent is released.

Microprint (45p) - This feature, as with most of those appearing on the Nobel Prizes stamps, is primarily a security device. The text is not legible to the naked eye and can be hidden within a design. The text is fully readable when viewed under a magnifier.

Hologram (65p) - This is the first time a hologram stamp has been used on a British stamp. A hologram is a clever method of 3-dimensional photography, which gives true 3-dimensional images on a flat piece of film. If you move your head then the image changes and moves so that you can see around the 3-dimensional image.

"Nobel Week", sponsored by Royal Mail, will be broadcast on The History Channel from Monday 1st - Sunday 7th October. Starting with a gripping story on Dynamite and its inventor, Alfred Nobel, the week will feature some of the most prominent Nobel Prize winners: Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, John Steinbeck, Albert Schweitzer, Mikhail Gorbachev and The Dalai Lama.

To find out more and for a chance to win a Year's Subscription to Royal Mail Presentation Packs, click here

The History Channel

Stamp Technical Details:

Feature Type/Detail
Designer HGV
Stamp Format Vertical
Stamp Size 35mm (w) x 37mm (h)
Printer Joh Enschede
Print Process Mixed See panel at start of FF
Number per Sheet    50
Perforation 14 x 14.5
Phosphor All over, except for 2nd class which has one bar