Alan Turing to be the face on new £50 banknote

Computer genius Alan Turing has been chosen as the face to appear on the new £50 polymer bank note.

The announcement was made in a live ceremony at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester by Bank of England governor Mark Carney on Monday.

Maths and science icon Turing was chosen following the Bank’s character selection process including advice from scientific experts.

Mr Carney revealed the imagery depicting the codebreaker and his work that will be used for the reverse of the note, which is expected to enter circulation by the end of 2021.

In 2018, the Banknote Character Advisory Committee chose to celebrate the field of science on the £50 note and this was followed by a six week public nomination period. The Bank received a total of 227,299 nominations, covering 989 eligible characters. The Committee considered all the nominations before deciding on a shortlist of 12 options, which were put to the Governor for him to make the final decision.

Mr Carney said today: “Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today. As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as war hero, Alan Turing’s contributions were far ranging and path breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”

Alan Turing provided the theoretical underpinnings for the modern computer. While best known for his work devising code-breaking machines during WWII, Turing played a pivotal role in the development of early computers first at the National Physical Laboratory and later at the University of Manchester.

He set the foundations for work on artificial intelligence by considering the question of whether machines could think. Turing was homosexual and was posthumously pardoned by the Queen having been convicted of gross indecency for his relationship with a man in 1952, at the time a criminal offence.

His legacy continues to have an impact on both science and society today, and he is commemorated in statue form in Manchester’s Sackville Gardens in the Gay Village.

In February, he was chosen by BBC viewers as the Greatest Icon of the 20th Century.

The new £50 note will celebrate Alan Turing and his pioneering work with computers. The design features a photo of Turing taking in 1951 by Elliott and Fry, a table and mathematical formulae from Turing’s seminal 1936 paper, technical drawins for the British Bombe used to break Enigma-enciphered messages during WWII.

There is also a quote from him from 1949: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

The full note design including all the security features will be unveiled closer to it entering circulation.


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