The Faces of Great Physicists on International Currency


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Amer­i­cans some­times com­plain that, unlike the cur­ren­cy of many oth­er coun­tries, which fea­ture por­traits of artists, sci­en­tists, and writ­ers, U.S. dol­lar bills don’t tend to fea­ture intel­lec­tu­als. But one could, I think, make the case for Ben­jamin Franklin, who must cer­tain­ly count as a man of let­ters, and did illus­trate an impor­tant physics les­son when he flew that kite with a key on it. Still, that does­n’t exact­ly make him a physi­cist, as res­i­dents of Aus­tria, New Zealand, Scot­land, and Croa­t­ia, all of whom have used bills embla­zoned with the faces of physi­cists, well know.


It does, how­ev­er, get Franklin a place on Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land physi­cist Edward F. Redish’s page “Physi­cists on the Mon­ey,” which was fea­tured on Jason Kot­tke’s site yes­ter­day. Redish high­lights 24 bills bear­ing por­traits of not­ed fig­ures through­out the his­to­ry of physics, includ­ing, at the top of the post, the Dan­ish 500-kro­ner note that pic­tures quan­tum the­o­rist Niels Bohr. Just above we have the uni­ver­sal­ly rec­og­niz­able dishevel­ment of Albert Ein­stein, who found his way onto Israel’s five-pound note by, among oth­er achieve­ments, com­ing up with the gen­er­al the­o­ry of rel­a­tiv­i­ty. Below you’ll see a physi­cist you may not have heard of, let alone spent: tenth-cen­tu­ry schol­ar Abu Nasr Al-Fara­bi, pic­tured on Kaza­khstan’s one-tenge note. Redish’s delight­ful­ly retro site also offers a col­lec­tion of physi­cists on stamps, and links to a page with more sci­en­tist- and math­e­mati­cian-bear­ing ban­knotes.


via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Physics Cours­es

Do Physi­cists Believe in God?

Lis­ten as Albert Ein­stein Reads ‘The Com­mon Lan­guage of Sci­ence’ (1941)

The Karl Marx Cred­it Card – When You’re Short of Kap­i­tal

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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