The Bank of England has announced that Alan Turing will appear on the new £50 polymer note, expected to enter circulation by the end of 2021.
Alan Turing was chosen following the Bank’s character selection process including advice from scientific experts. 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 227,299 nominations, covering 989 eligible characters from which the Committee drew up a shortlist of 12 options, with Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, making the final decision.
— Bank of England (@bankofengland) July 15, 2019
“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.”
The shortlist included Mary Anning, Paul Dirac, Rosalind Franklin, William Herschel and Caroline Herschel, Dorothy Hodgkin, Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking, James Clerk Maxwell, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Ernest Rutherford, Frederick Sanger and Alan Turing.
The new £50 note will celebrate Alan Turing and his work with computers. As shown in the concept image, the design on the reverse of the note will feature:
- A photo of Turing taken in 1951 by Elliott & Fry, which is part of the Photographs Collection at the National Portrait Gallery.
- A table and mathematical formulae from Turing’s seminal 1936 paper On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem. This paper is widely recognised as being foundational for computer science.
- The Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) Pilot Machine, which was developed at the National Physical Laboratory as the trial model of Turing’s pioneering ACE design. The ACE was one of the first electronic stored-program digital computers.
- Technical drawings for the British Bombe, the machine specified by Turing and one of the primary tools used to break Enigma-enciphered messages during WWII.
- A quote from Alan Turing, given in an interview to The Times newspaper on 11 June 1949: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”
- Turing’s signature from the visitor’s book at Bletchley Park in 1947, where he worked during WWII.
- Ticker tape depicting Alan Turing’s birth date (23 June 1912) in binary code. The concept of a machine fed by binary tape featured in the Turing’s 1936 paper.
I just got a nice little shiver when working out whether the binary on the ribbon of the new £50 banknote meant anything.
1010111111110010110011000 is 23061912 in decimal. Alan Turing was born on the 23rd June 1912. What a nice touch.
RIP, Alan. pic.twitter.com/BUXzrT31FY
— dan barker (@danbarker) July 15, 2019
Ahead of the £50 launch however, the new £20 will be issued in 2020, featuring the artist JMW Turner.
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