Computer science pioneer, code breaker, and mathematician Alan Turing will feature on the United Kingdom’s new £50 banknote.
Turing beat out almost 1,000 other candidates to score the coveted position.
The Bank of England announced in 2018 that the field of science would be celebrated on the upcoming note and opened a six-week public nomination period resulting in 227,299 nominations.
Turing was chosen ahead of Stephen Hawking, Ada Lovelace, and ten other finalists.
Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, said Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work had an enormous impact.
“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.”
The Bank of England said the note will celebrate Turing’s pioneering work with computers.
Scientist Dr Emily Grossman, who sat on the committee that selected Turing, said his contribution to science was clear.
“He was the father of computer science, a significant influence on the modern field of artificial intelligence and most importantly, his work at Bletchley Park during the second world war led a team of code-breakers to crack the German Enigma code,” she wrote in The Guardian.
“But Turing’s importance goes beyond science.
“Shortly after the war, he was prosecuted by the British government for “gross indecency” due to his relationship with another man.
“He chose to undergo a year of chemical castration rather than face a prison sentence, but he died two years later, aged 41. The inquest found that his death from cyanide poisoning had been suicide."
Fifty-five years later, in 2009, Gordon Brown issued an apology to Turing on behalf of the government. The Queen officially pardoned Turing in 2013.
“This may have seemed too little, too late, but such public acknowledgment of his mistreatment by the state helped pave the way for the subsequent government pardoning of nearly 50,000 homosexual men who had been historically cautioned or convicted for homosexual acts.”
“The honouring of Turing sends a powerful message: this is a nation that believes that all people should be treated equally and with respect.”
While not finalised, the Bank of England said the new note will feature the following:
o A photo of Turing taken in 1951 by Elliott & Fry which is part of the Photographs Collection at the National Portrait Gallery.
o A table and mathematical formulae from Turing’s seminal 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungs problem”- Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. This paper is widely recognised as being foundational for computer science. It sought to establish whether there could be a definitive method by which any theorem could be assessed as provable or not using a universal machine. It introduced the concept of a Turing machine as a thought experiment of how computers could operate.
o The Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) Pilot Machine which was developed at the National Physical Laboratory as the trial model of Turing’s pioneering ACE design. The ACE was one of the first electronic stored-program digital computers.
o Technical drawings for the British Bombe, the machine specified by Turing and one of the primary tools used to break Enigma-enciphered messages during WWII.
o A quote from Alan Turing, given in an interview to The Times newspaper on 11 June 1949: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.” (Let’s hope they insert the full-stop at the end of the quote in the final version.)
o Turing’s signature from the visitor’s book at Bletchley Park in 1947, where he worked during WWII.
o Ticker tape depicting Alan Turing’s birth date (23 June 1912) in binary code. The concept of a machine fed by binary tape featured in the Turing’s 1936 paper.
In 2014, a movie was made on Alan Turing’s attempt to crack the Enigma machine, ‘The Imitation Game’, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing. It won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.