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1987  Isaac Newton set

This striking and colourful set, designed by Sarah Godwin, was issued in March 1987 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Isaac Newton’s monumental work Principia (full title: Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), generally regarded as the greatest scientific book ever written. In it, Newton laid out his findings on gravity and motion that underpin our understanding of the Universe.

The title page of the Principia is shown on the 18p stamp, with a diagram from it overlain on a picture of an apple, the stimulus for his research into the attraction of bodies. Newton’s laws of gravity explained why the planets move around the Sun in elliptical orbits, as illustrated on the 22p stamp.

Newton also did pioneering work on light and colour, as recalled by the 31p stamp which depicts the title page of his book Opticks (subtitled A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light) seen refracted through a flask of water, along with a rainbow spectrum.

The 34p stamp shows the title page of The System of the World, originally Book III of the Principia but which was published separately after Newton’s death. It contained a famous diagram illustrating how a projectile could go into orbit around the Earth if propelled with sufficient speed. Newton could hardly have imagined that one day we would actually be able to send objects into orbit such as the large communications satellite shown.

Stanley Gibbons nos. 1351–1354