17 Jul.

Alan Turing will be face of new £50 note

Alan Turing will be the next face on the £50 note the Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, announced today (Monday, 15 July).

Making the announcement at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, the Governor also revealed the imagery depicting Alan Turing and his work that will be used for the reverse of the note.

The eminent mathematician and computer scientist, who is often dubbed ‘the father of modern computing’, was based at The University of Manchester after World War II. During the war he famously worked with the British Intelligence Service at Bletchley Park to help break the German Enigma machine.

In 1948 Turing was appointed Reader in the Mathematics Department at the then Victoria University of Manchester. Soon afterwards he became Deputy Director of the Computing Laboratory where he proposed an experiment now known as the Turing Test and worked on software for one of the earliest true computers – the Manchester Ferranti Mark 1.

Turing’s legacy is still keenly felt at the University today, where he is one of our Heritage Heroes and has a building named after him which houses the Schools of Mathematics and Physics and Astronomy.

President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell said: “We’re thrilled and immensely proud at the news Alan Turing will feature on the £50 note as he is such a strong part of our institution’s rich heritage.

“His pioneering work in mathematics, computing and artificial intelligence helped to distinguish and enhance our reputation in these academic areas, something that continues to this day.

“Here at the University Turing’s legacy lives on as future generations of mathematicians and physicists study in a building that bears his name. This latest recognition is richly deserved and a fitting tribute to one of the greatest scientists of the 20th Century.”

Alan Turing was chosen following the Bank’s character selection process including advice from scientific experts. In 2018, the Banknote Character Advisory Committee chose to celebrate the field of science on the £50 note and this was followed by a six week public nomination period. The Bank received a total of 227,299 nominations, covering 989 eligible characters.

The Committee considered all the nominations before deciding on a shortlist of 12 options, which were put to the Governor for him to make the final decision. This latest accolade follows Turing being voted the 20th century’s greatest person in a public vote on BBC Two’s series, ICONS earlier this year.

Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, commented: “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.”

The new £50 note will celebrate Alan Turing and his pioneering work with computers. As shown in the concept image, the design on the reverse of the note will feature:

·         A photo of Turing taken in 1951 by Elliott & Fry which is part of the Photographs Collection at the National Portrait Gallery.

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

·         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.

·         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.

·         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.”

·         Turing’s signature from the visitor’s book at Bletchley Park in 1947, where he worked during WWII.

·         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.

The full note design including all the security features will be unveiled closer to it entering circulation.