Alan Turing Is The New Face Of The £50 Note

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Alan Turing Is The New Face Of The £50 Note

Computer pioneer, codebreaker and sometime Londoner Alan Turing will appear on the next £50 notes.

This is the Bank of England's new £50 polymer note design, which will enter circulation in late 2021. Turing's likeness will replace those of steam pioneers James Watt and Matthew Boulton.

Turing is noted for breaking the German Enigma code during the second world war, giving the Allies a crucial advantage. He also developed many of the principles underlying modern computing. Turing took his own life in 1954, a victim of state prejudice against homosexuals. He remained a little-known figure for decades, but is now widely recognised as a British hero.

"As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as war hero, Alan Turing's contributions were far ranging and path breaking," said Bank of England governor Mark Carney. "Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand."

Blue plaque for Alan Turing

Turing's recognition is richly deserved. Still, the announcement will disappoint those who campaigned to see a woman or a person of non-white ethnicity on the banknote.

Whether you'll ever handle the new £50 is another matter. Some 344 million are notionally in circulation, yet they're rarely seen on the high street. With the inexorable rise of contactless payments, the fifty note will be a rare beast indeed.

Turing's London connections

Although best known for his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, Turing has links to the capital. He was born on 23 June 1912 in Maida Vale, close to Warwick Avenue tube station. A blue plaque marks his childhood home.

While based at Bletchley, Turing was often called to London for meetings. A true Olympian, Turing was fit of body as well as mind, and would occasionally jog the 40 miles.

After the war, the computer scientist moved to Hampton in south-west London. His home at 78 High Street is also marked with a plaque. From here, it was a much shorter jog to the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, where he developed the idea of a stored computer programme.

A modest statue of Turing stands beside Mary Seacole, Michael Bond and Paddington Bear in the grounds of St Mary's Paddington. Nearby, a more esoteric memorial throws out digital messages on the canal footpath.

Last Updated 13 December 2019