The UK introduces new GBP 50 note featuring codebreaker Alan Turing. Here’s a closer look at its details

The Bank of England has unveiled its design for its new GBP 50 note, and it features computer scientist and codebreaker Alan Turing. The new note will be issued for the first time on 23 June 2021—coinciding with Turing’s birthday.

Turing was selected to appear on the note in July 2019 after a selection process which included advice from scientific experts. He was chosen due to his groundbreaking work in mathematics and computer science, as well as his work devising code-breaking machines during World War 2.

It was also a huge feat for the LGBT community in the UK. Turing was openly gay among friends, but in 1952 was arrested and charged with “gross indecency” for homosexual acts. Peter Tatchell, a veteran gay rights campaigner, said that picking Turing as the face of the note is a “much deserved accolade for one of the greatest minds of the 20th century”.

The new GPB 50 note will still have the Queen of England at the front of the note—just like any other one of their notes. Alan Turing’s appearance would be at the back, along with some pretty cool details related to Turing’s work.

One of the coolest details includes Turing’s birthday (23 June 1912) rendered in binary code—a format Turing thought could be used to enter data into machine.

The back of the note also includes the table and mathematical formulae come from Turing’s seminal 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem,” which introduced the concept of the Turing Machine. 

Under Turing’s signature—which was taken from the visitor’s book at Bletchley Park—the note includes a quote from Turing which reads, “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

The note’s traditional security foil has been re-shaped into a “microchip”. And the spiral sunflower patterns pay homage to Turing’s work in morphogenetics. You can find more information of the details here.

“Placing Turing on the GBP 50 note would at least go some way to acknowledging his unprecedented contribution to society and science. But more importantly it will serve as a stark and frankly painful reminder of what we lost in Turing and what we will lose again if we ever allow that kind of hateful ideology to win,” said former MP John Leech.


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Dzamira Dzafri