Bank of England unveils new Alan Turing £50 note

Saleha Riaz
·3 min read
Turing is best known for his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park, which helped end the Second World War. Photo: Bank of England
Turing is best known for his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park, which helped end the Second World War. Photo: Bank of England

The Bank of England unveiled the final design of the new £50 ($69) polymer banknote featuring scientist Alan Turing, comedian Stephen Fry and science author Simon Singh on Thursday. The new £50 notes will come into circulation on 23 June.

Turing will appear as the main image while Fry and Singh will reflect on the note. Turing is best known for his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park, which helped end the Second World War. He was also a leading mathematician, developmental biologist, and a pioneer in the field of computer science.

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."

"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 symbolises," he added.

The note will be issued for the first time on 23 June, which coincides with Turing’s birthday.

“The polymer £50 note contains advanced security features, completing our most secure set of Bank of England polymer banknotes yet,” the bank said in a statement.

Photo: Bank of England
Photo: Bank of England

The note, like the £20, incorporates two windows and a two-colour foil, making it difficult to counterfeit.

There is also a hologram image which changes between the words ‘Fifty’ and ‘Pounds’ when tilting the note from side to side.

This note, like the polymer £10 and £20, will contain a tactile feature to help vision impaired people identify the denomination.

The new note will join the Churchill £5, the Austen £10 and the Turner £20, meaning all Bank of England banknotes are now available in polymer.

For now, the public can continue to use paper £50 notes as usual. Notice will be given at least six months ahead of the date when the old paper £50 is withdrawn.

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Features on the new £50 note include a photo of Turing taken in 1951, which is part of the Photographs Collection at the National Portrait Gallery.

There is also a table and mathematical formulae from Turing’s seminal 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem”.

A quote from Alan Turing, given in an interview to The Times newspaper on 11 June 1949 is also featured: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.” ·T

Director of GCHQ Jeremy Fleming said the move confirms Turing’s status as one of the most iconic LGBT+ figures in the world."

The Bank of England has collaborated with GCHQ on the intelligence and cyber agency’s "toughest puzzle ever", based on the new bank note design.

The puzzle will launch on the morning of 25 March.

Turing was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 after admitting a sexual relationship with a man.

He was given experimental chemical castration as a "treatment" and he was unable to continue his work for the GCHQ. Two years later he killed himself, aged 41.

In 2009, then prime minister Gordon Brown issued an apology on behalf of the government to Turing. He described Turing's treatment as "horrifying" and "utterly unfair".

"We're sorry, you deserved so much better," Brown said.

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