Alan Turing was preferred over Stephen Hawking and Margaret Thatcher to feature on the highest-denomination bills in the country. The Bank of England has selected the face of the computer science genius whose most famous breakthrough proved decisive in the outcome of World War II against Germany to appear in the new £50 note (around 62 US dollars) due to enter circulation by the end of 2021.
Alan Turing’s code-breaking machines deciphered Adolf Hitler's Enigma coomunications system that gave the Allies an unsurmountable edge.
Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today,” , the of the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said through a statement. “As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as a war hero, Alan Turing’s contributions were far-ranging and path breaking,” he added.
“Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand,” he went on.
Despite his now unquestioned contribution to science, Turing died an outcast in 1954 because of his homosexuality, for which he was convicted under Britain’s Victorian gross indecency laws and forced to endure chemical castration through estrogen shots to avoid serving a two-year prison term. Turing was just 41 when he was found dead from poisoning in what was ruled a suicide. His war work remained a secret until decades later.
Bank of England bills feature Queen Elizabeth’s face on one side, and a notable figure from British history on the other. Scientists previously honoured in this way include Newton, Darwin and the electricity pioneer Michael Faraday. The current £50 features James Watt, a key figure in the development of the steam engine, and Matthew Boulton, the industrialist who backed him.
The new note will be printed on polymer and will bear a 1951 photo of Turing, the bank announced Monday. It will include a quote from Turing: This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is going to be.”
The central bank announced last year that it wanted to honour someone in the field of science on the next version of the bill, which was last redesigned in 2011, and Turing was chosen from a list of 227,299 nominees that included Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking, Ada Lovelace and Margaret Thatcher (who worked as a chemical researcher before entering politics).
In the U.K., £50 notes are not commonly used in many daily transactions, and some retailers refuse to accept them. They are also dubbed been the currency of corrupt elites.
Turing's work will also be celebrated on the reverse side of the bill, which will include a table and mathematical formulas from a paper by him from 1936 that is recognised as foundational for computer science.
In recent years, other updates to the Bank of England's currency have featured Jane Austen on the £10 note and Winston Churchill on the £5. A new £20 note is expected next year, bearing a self-portrait by the artist J.M.W. Turner.
The British government has apologised for his treatment in 2009 when then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a full apology, thanking him for his contribution to humankind and for fighting fascism. You deserved so much better, Brown said. Queen Elizabeth granted him a royal pardon in 2013.