Smith explores the history of currencies

Famous inventors, scientists, philosophers and their stories are displayed throughout the world on new and old currencies. Great minds such as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein and images of their discoveries that changed the way people live are examples from money around the globe.

The stories behind the images on these currencies are being presented in the show “Worlds in Your Wallet-how the world’s money tells the story of science,” now through April 21 at the University planetarium.

Throughout the show, the audience will learn about the people and the stories behind the discovery of electricity, the atom and calculus among other things, that are found on old bank notes around the world. The stories sometimes intertwine and link countries through science and history.

The creator of the presentation, Dale Smith, goes beyond the borders of astronomy and physics by touching on many different sciences and even philosophy, varying the center of interest throughout the show.

Currency from around the world tells the stories of the discoveries and inventions from famous scientists and philosophers. For example, Charles Darwin, shown on a 10-pound piece with a finch in the upper left corner, tells the story of how he discovered the theory of survival of the fittest, partially by studying the birds.

Smith, who is also a professor of physics and astronomy, said “in the everyday fabric of our lives, we can see science,” making the connection between science and currency.

Nicole Cramer, freshman, and Morgan Shumate, sophomore, were at Tuesday night’s showing. Shumate said she attended because “the topic sounded very interesting.” This was Cramer and Shumate’s first visit to the planetarium.

Pioneers of science who are natives of other countries are often honored on currency. While most of the U.S. currency features former political figures, some other countries feature scientists and inventors on their currency.

For example, electrical engineering pioneer Nikola Telsa is honored in his native land, Serbia, and is seen on both present-day currency and currency from previous decades.

Both current and now obsolete currencies are shown throughout the presentation. The euro is one reason certain currencies no longer exist. Other forms of money have been replaced by current issues or are no longer a legally accepted form of currency, according to Smith.

Smith travels often and noticed that currencies in different places around the world honored astronomers, biologists, chemists, philosophers and other great minds in history. The project was finalized at the end of January 2006 for its scheduled release this February.

Although it only took a few months to produce the show, it took several years to collect the data.

“This show let me tackle topics I don’t usually get to deal with,” Smith said. He got the idea for the production about four years ago and began the first draft in May 2005.

“Getting the inventory together was a much longer process,” he said.

After collecting the data, Smith organized the currency by topic. Smith found “topics you wouldn’t expect ahead of time,” such as electricity or magnetism, he said.

“I tried to keep the pace moving, enough to keep people interested,” Smith said.

Editor’s Note: The “Worlds in Your Wallet” presentation is being shows through April 21, Tuesdays 8 p.m., Fridays 8 p.m., and Sundays 7:30 p.m. There will be no showings during spring break. There is no admission fee, but a $1 donation is encouraged. Proceeds go toward operating costs.