The UK central bank has put its new £ 50 note into circulation. The mathematician Alan Turing is depicted on the back of the notes. The new banknote is made of a polymer-based plastic, which makes the notes more durable than paper money. The 5, 10 and 20 pound notes are made from this material. They depict Winston Churchill, Jane Austen and William Turner, and always Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse.
Turing is an important mathematician who has an enormous influence on our lives today, said Governor Mark Carney of the Bank of England in Bletchley Park, where Turing cracked the German Enigma code during World War II. The most important personalities are recognized on the British banknotes, Turing is one of them. He is the father of computer science and has laid the foundations for artificial intelligence. He is also a war hero. “Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”
The Bank of England decided in 2018 that the next 50-pound note – the first with this face value made of polymer-based plastic – should be dedicated to science. 227,299 nominations for 989 suitable personalities were received on a call. The selection committee chose from these twelve, among which the governor finally decided on Turing, describes the Bank of England.
Pardoned by the Queen
Alan Turing was persecuted in 1952 for homosexuality, which was then banned in Britain. He lost his status as a secret carrier and could no longer work for the GCHQ secret service. To avoid prison, Turing underwent chemical castration. In 1954 he probably committed suicide as a result of this forced treatment. At the end of 2013, the queen pardoned him.
The banknote is adorned with a photograph of Turing that was taken in 1951 in the Elliott & Fry photo studio in London; it is now part of the National Portrait Gallery in London. To the left of it, a table and mathematical formulas from Turing’s seminal essay “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Decision Problem” from 1936 are to be shown. This essay is considered to be the basis for computer science.
“This is just a foretaste …”
In the background of the back of the 50-pound note is the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), which Turing worked on at the National Physical Laboratory after the war. The ACE was one of the first digital computers with an electronic storage program. Turing’s signature is also shown in the guest book of Bletchley Park, where he worked during World War II. There are also technical drawings for a machine designed by Turing that cracked enigma-encrypted messages. Turing is also quoted on the banknote from an interview with The Times on June 11, 1949: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only a shadow of what will be.”
In addition to Turing, the following were on the shortlist for the banknote: the first paleontologist Mary Anning, the co-founder of quantum physics Paul Dirac, the biochemist Rosalind Franklin, the astronomers Caroline Herschel and her brother Wilhelm, the biochemist Dorothy Hodgkin, the mathematicians Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, physicist Stephen Hawking, physicist James Clerk Maxwell, mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, physicist Ernest Rutherford, and biochemist Frederick Sanger.