The Albert B. Sabin Digitization Project: Commemorative Stamp

By Megan Ryan, Sabin Project Student Assistant

A scientist cannot rest while knowledge which might reduce suffering rests on the shelf.
-Albert B. Sabin [1]

Albert B. Sabin Commemorative Stamp

On March 8, 2006, Dr. Albert B. Sabin was recognized for his work in the elimination of polio by the United States Postal Service. An 87-cent stamp was created to honor the virologist “who developed the ‘sugar-cube’ vaccine that’s credited with wiping out polio in much of the world.”[2] The stamp, part of the Distinguished Americans series, was issued to recognized his various accolades and research accomplishments. The USA Philatelic Catalog explained that Dr. Sabin’s “successful efforts to develop a polio vaccine made him one of the most esteemed scientists in the world. For his dedication to fighting polio and other infectious diseases, he received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science (1970) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1986).”[3]

Dr. Sabin’s work clearly fit the stamp subject selection criteria outlined by the U. S. Postal Service. The requirements included:

  1. Feature American or American-related subjects;
  2. No living person shall be honored by portrayal on U.S postage;
  3. Only events, persons, and themes of widespread national appeal and significance will be considered for commemoration.[4]

The portrait of Dr. Sabin featured on the commemorative stamp was created by artist Mark Summers. The artist implemented a scratchboard technique, “distinguished by a dense network of horizontal lines etched with exquisite precision.”[5] The portrait displays the likeness of Dr. Sabin in a photograph taken at the Medical University of South Carolina in 1982.[6] It is interesting to note that at the same time Dr. Sabin was commemorated with the 87-cent stamp, Dr. Jonas Salk was commemorated with the 63-cent stamp, which was also part of the Distinguished Americans series.[7]

In March 2006, a ceremony was held at the University of Cincinnati’s Vontz Center for Molecular Studies to celebrate the new stamp. Officials from the Postal Service, the University of Cincinnati, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital were present to witness the presentation of a copy of the stamp to Dr. Sabin’s widow, Heloisa Sabin.[8]

A copy of the Sabin commemorative stamp can be seen in an exhibit honoring Dr. Sabin in the Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions. If you want to view the stamp or other materials in the Sabin collection, please contact the Winkler Center at (513)558-5120 or to set up an appointment.

[1] “US Postage Stamp Commemorates Albert Sabin’s Vaccine Discoveries.” Sabin Vaccine Report, Volume 9, No. 1 (Summer 2006): 8.
[2] O’Farrell, Peggy. “Albert Sabin. UC Researcher Honored.” Cincinnati Enquirer. Wednesday, March 8, 2006.
[3] USA Philatelic Catalog, Volume 11, No. 1 (Spring 2006): 7.
[4] “Backgrounder: Dr. Albert Sabin, 87-Cent Definitive Stamp.” United States Postal Service Postal News. March 8, 2006.
[5] “Mark Summers.” USA Philatelic.
[6] “Backgrounder: Dr. Albert Sabin, 87-Cent Definitive Stamp.”
[7] “Albert Sabin. UC Researcher Honored.”
[8] Ibid.

In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a $314,258 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to digitize the correspondence and photographs of Dr. Albert B. Sabin. This digitization project has been designated a NEH “We the People” project, an initiative to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through the support of projects that explore significant events and themes in our nation’s history and culture and that advance knowledge of the principles that define America. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.