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The Bank of England has revealed today that the acclaimed mathematician Alan Turing is to be the new face on the new polymer £50 note, which is due to enter circulation by the end of 2021.
Turing was chosen for the note after a selection process in which 989 eligible characters from the world of science were narrowed down to a shortlist of 12 by the Banknote Character Advisory Committee. The Governor of the Bank of England then had the final decision on who was to appear on the note.
Turing is most famously known for his work devising code-breaking machines during the Second World War and was depicted by Benedict Cumberbatch in the 2014 film The Imitation Game. In addition to his code-breaking work during the war, Turing also provided the theoretical underpinnings for the modern computer and played a pivotal role in the development of early computers, first at the National Physical Laboratory and later at the University of Manchester. He set the foundations for work on artificial intelligence by considering the question of whether machines could think. Turing was homosexual and was posthumously pardoned by the Queen having been convicted of gross indecency for his relationship with a man. His legacy continues to have an impact on both science and society today.
In 2018, the Banknote Character Advisory Committee chose to celebrate the field of science on the new £50 note, which was followed by a six-week public nomination period. The nominations were then whittled down to a shortlist of 12. The 12 final candidates were 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 with Turing’s imagery will replace the current note that entered circulation in 2011 and features Matthew Boulton and James Watt, who were leading figures during the industrial revolution. In 1775, the two formed a partnership to develop and market steam engines, and the designs were taken up worldwide. The metric unit of power is named after James Watt.
Commenting on the selection of Alan Turing on the new £50 note, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, said: “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.”
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