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1971 New Zealand 1c

    One of two New Zealand stamps to mark the centennial of the birth of Ernest Rutherford. Note the use of a portrait of him as an old man, not what he looked like in 1911 when he determined the nuclear structure of the atom. The diagram is an artist's depiction of the alpha particle scattering experiments which led to his nuclear model of the atom.
Both stamps were issued on the 1st of Dec 1971.

The Story Behind the 1971 New Zealand Stamps

    In case you ever wondered why the New Zealand stamps were issued in Dec of 1971, to mark an event of the previous August 30th, here is the story. Garry Tee reminisced to me of his memory of discussions he had in 1983, at the first History of New Zealand Science Conference, with Sir Charles Fleming, the President of the RSNZ. Garry has since written a note on this which was published in The New Zealand Mathematical Society Newsletter 86 41 2002. It is reproduced below, with revisions following further discussions with me.

    "In 1970 the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ), in fulfillment of its statutory duty of advising the government on matters scientific, recommended to the Postmaster General that a postage stamp be issued in 1971, to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Ernest Rutherford. "Ernest WHO??" was the response of The Honourable Lancelot Adams-Schneider.

    A committee of the RSNZ explained to him who Rutherford was, and why the centenary of Rutherford's birth deserved to be celebrated. In response, The Honorable Lancelot Adams-Schneider soundly berated the RSNZ for wasting his time by making such a frivolous suggestion. In any case, they were too late: the preparation of a postage stamp required two years, not one! And he was then very busy with finalizing the arrangements for the commemorative stamps to be issued in 1971. Those stamps celebrated the centenary of Auckland as a city, the centenary of local government in Invercargill, the centenary of the founding of Palmerston North, the 50th anniversary of the Federation of Countrywomen's Institutes of New Zealand - and the 50th anniversary of Rotary New Zealand.

    Late in 1971, the RSNZ committee politely forwarded to the Postmaster General the wrapping paper of a parcel of books, which had been posted to the RSNZ by the USSR Academy of Sciences. The stamps on that wrapping included a Soviet stamp, celebrating the centenary of the birth of Rutherford.

    Upon reflection, The Honorable Lancelot Adams-Schneider decided to waive the two-year rule for preparing a postage stamp; and on 1971 December 1 the NZ Post Office issued stamps for 1 cent and for 7 cents, both reproducing the official portrait of Rutherford as President of the Royal Society of London. Rutherford stamps from Sweden (1968), Canada (1971), USSR (1971) and New Zealand (1971 - only just!) are reproduced by John Campbell, in Colour Plate C16 of his biography of Rutherford, Scientist Supreme, AAS Publications, Christchurch, 1999."

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