Paper Money

Scientist Alan Turing £50 note gets final unveiling

The Bank of England revealed the final designs for the new £50 note depicting scientist Alan Turing. Bank officials celebrated the growing diversity of the bank’s notes (Turing was gay).

Images courtesy of Bank of England.

The Bank of England revealed the final design of its new £50 note featuring Alan Turing on March 25, culminating a development process that began in 2018.

The polymer note will be placed into circulation on June 23 as it joins the already issued Churchill £5, Austen £10, and the Turner £20 notes. When the new notes enter circulation, all Bank of England bank notes will be available in polymer.

The selection of Turing began when the Banknote Character Advisory Committee chose to celebrate the field of science on the £50 note. This was followed by a six-week public nomination period during which the bank received 227,299 names, covering 989 eligible individuals. The committee considered all of them before deciding on a shortlist of 12 that were submitted to the bank’s governor for the final decision.

The selection is groundbreaking and its significance was not lost on the bank, which flew a rainbow flag at its headquarters on the day of the announcement. Governor Andrew Bailey said: “There’s something of the character of a nation in its money, and we are right to consider and celebrate the people on our banknotes. So I’m delighted that our new £50 features one of Britain’s most important scientists, Alan Turing. Turing is best known for his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park, which helped end the Second World War. However in addition he was a leading mathematician, developmental biologist, and a pioneer in the field of computer science. He was also gay, and was treated appallingly as a result. By placing him on our new polymer £50 banknote, we are celebrating his achievements, and the values he symbolizes.”

Director Jeremy Fleming of GCHQ, one of the three UK Intelligence and Security Agencies, said, “Alan Turing’s appearance on the £50 note is a landmark moment in our history. Not only is it a celebration of his scientific genius which helped to shorten the war and influence the technology we still use today, it also confirms his status as one of the most iconic LGBT+ figures in the world. Turing was embraced for his brilliance and persecuted for being gay. His legacy is a reminder of the value of embracing all aspects of diversity, but also the work we still need to do to become truly inclusive.”

Among the elements on the note’s face are: A photo of Turing taken in 1951; table and mathematical formulas from Turing’s 1936 paper that is now considered a foundation of computer science; the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), one of the first electronic stored-program digital computers; drawings for the British Bombe, that Turing said was one of the main tools used to break Enigma-coded Nazi messages during WWII; a quote from Turing, “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be”; his signature from a book now on display at Bletchley Park; and his birth date (June 23, 1912) in binary code.

Security features include a metallic hologram which changes between the words FIFTY and POUNDS when the note is tilted; a see-through window with a gold and green foil on the face depicting a microchip image; two green 21 spiral features based on a sunflower head (linked to his work in developmental biology); a silver foil patch with a 3D image of the coronation crown; the queen’s portrait in the see-through window with printing; a smaller see-through window in the bottom corner of the note, based on architectural features at Bletchley Park; and a red foil patch containing the letters AT based on the image of a sunflower head, also linked to Turing’s work in developmental biology.

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