According to the latest news, the Bank of England has revealed the design for the UK’s new £50 note that features computer scientist and codebreaker Alan Turing. Back in July 2019, Turing was selected to appear on the note for his groundbreaking work in mathematics and computer science. He also played a significant role in cracking the Enigma code used by Germany in World War II.
The polymer note incorporates a number of designs linked to Turing’s life and legacy and it will enter circulation from 23rd June onwards. The list of designs includes technical drawings for the bombe, a decryption device used during WWII, a string of ticker tape with Turing’s birth date rendered in binary, a green and gold security foil resembling a microchip, and a table and mathematical formulae are taken from one of Turing’s papers.
Apart from honoring Turing for his scientific achievements, he was also selected to appear on the banknote in recognition of his persecution by the UK government for homosexuality. In 1952, Turing was arrested and charged with “gross indecency” for homosexual acts. Turing did not deny the charges. He was convicted and sentenced to chemical castration. Before being charged, Turing wrote in a letter, “No doubt I shall emerge from it all a different man, but quite who I’ve not found out.” Two years later, at the age of 41, Turing dies after eating an apple laced with cyanide.
Following a 10-year campaign led by former MP John Leech, Turing and many other men convicted for similar offenses were posthumously pardoned in 2017. Leech said that the treatment of Turing was a “national embarrassment and an example of society at its absolute worst.” According to Leech, this move by the central bank would at least bring his life and works to public attention. Back in 2018, Leech said, “It is almost impossible to put into words the difference that Alan Turing made to society, but perhaps the most poignant example is that his work is estimated to have shortened the war by four years and saved 21 million lives. Placing Turing on the £50 note would at least go some way to acknowledging his unprecedented contribution to society and science. But more importantly, it will serve as a stark and frankly painful reminder of what we lost in Turing and what we will lose again if we ever allow that kind of hateful ideology to win.”
Turing’s nephew Sir Dermot Turing said in an interview with BBC News that a lot still needs to be done to truly honor Turing’s legacy. He said, “I think Alan Turing would have wanted us to think about things like under-representation of women in science subjects; under-representation of Black and ethnic minority kids in STEM subjects in school, and why they’re not being given the opportunities they should have and why that’s bad for all of us.”