The Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, has just announced that Alan Turing and aspects of the Bombe will appear on the new £50 note.
The new polymer £50 note is expected to enter circulation by the end of 2021.
Alan Turing was chosen following the Bank’s selection process that included a six-week public nomination period and advice from scientific experts. A shortlist was then created. from the total of 227,299 nominations of 989 eligible people received by the Bank.
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.”
Andrew Herbert, chair of The National Museum of Computing, welcoming the announcement said, “It is fantastic recognition of the father of theoretical computer science. At our museum, we celebrate Alan Turing through our display of the working reconstruction of the Turing-Welchman Bombe and also through exhibits of his post-war work in computing such as a memory line from the Pilot Ace computer developed at the National Physical Laboratory.”
Alan Turing provided the theoretical underpinnings for the modern computer. While best known for his work devising code-breaking machines during the second world war, Turing 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.
Other people (or pairs of people) on the shortlist 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, and Frederick Sanger.
As shown in the concept image (above) the Bank says that 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.