Alan Turing’s Face Will Be On The New £50 Banknote

Laura O'Neill Laura O'Neill

Alan Turing’s Face Will Be On The New £50 Banknote

Celebrated wartime code-breaker and father of modern computing Alan Turing has been chosen as the face of the new £50 note.

Making the announcement at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester today (July 15), Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England revealed imagery depicting Alan Turing and his work will be used for the reverse of the note.

The quest to find a face for the note began when, speaking in the Science Museum last November, Governor Mark Carney announced that he sought scientists whose work has shaped how we think about the world and who continue to inspire us today.

Over six weeks, 227,299 nominations flooded in. In all 989 eligible names who met the bank’s criteria of being real, deceased and having had contributed to science in the UK were put forward.

The dozen front runners, which can be seen in a special exhibit at the Science and Industry Museum,  included Stephen Hawking, Srinivasa Ramanujan and Dorothy Hodgkin. However, it was mathematician, computer scientist, and cryptanalyst Alan Turing who was chosen in the end.

Photo: nationalportraitgallery

Mr Carney said:

“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 but is best known for his work cracking enemy codes during World War Two at Bletchley Park. He built a machine called a Bombe which sped-up code-cracking efforts by trying multiple permutations and helped the Allies gain an upper hand in the war.

Turing’s work saved hundreds of thousands of lives and hastened the defeat of Hitler by months, maybe even years. He also developed some of the earliest mathematical models of how biological shapes emerge, long before the molecular structure of DNA was discovered.

His legacy also helped change social attitudes in Britain. Turing was a gay man at a time when homosexuality was illegal, and despite his wartime contribution, he was arrested for ‘gross indecency’ in 1952.

He was given a stark choice between prison and chemical castration – a barbaric routine of hormonal drugs designed to reduce libido. Wanting to avoid prison Turing chose the chemical castration. But the arrest also lost him his security clearance and two years later he died of cyanide poisoning – whether it was suicide or not is still debated.

Photo: gianncarloduran

Sally MacDonald, Director of the Science and Industry Museum said:

“Given the connection between Alan Turing and Manchester, I am really thrilled that the Bank of England has announced that Alan Turing will be on the new £50 note.

“Alan Turing is the mathematical genius credited with cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma code, shortening World War Two and saving countless lives.

“Some of his most important work was conducted in Manchester and it is in this city where the campaign began to clear his conviction for the then crime of being a homosexual, which led to his suicide, aged 41.”

The new polymer £50 note is expected to enter circulation by the end of 2021.

Click here to learn more about Manc icon Alan Turing.

Also published on Medium.

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