The £50 note in the UK is reserved to honour people who have made great strides in the field of science.
The current £50 note features Matthew Boulton and James Watt, the pioneers of the steam engine.
Who’s gracing the new notes? That honour belongs to Alan Turing, whose work laid the groundwork for the invention of the modern computer.
The Bank of England chose to feature Turing after a public consultation that saw 227 299 submissions that nominated 989 different scientists, reports The Verge.
To qualify, an individual needed to be real, deceased, and they needed to have contributed to the field of science in the UK. From these nominations, the bank’s advisory committee drew up a shortlist of 12 scientists including physicist Steven Hawking, and Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, the latter of which are two earlier computer science pioneers.
The choice to feature Turing is significant for a number of reasons, not least of which his complicated relationship with the British government.
During World War 2 he lead a team of code breakers to successfully crack the Nazi’s Enigma code and later designed ACE, one of the world’s first stored-program computers. However, in 1952 he was convicted of “gross indecency” for having a relationship with another man and was sentenced to be chemically castrated. The process left him impotent and growing breasts. He later killed himself in 1954. In 2013, he was issued a posthumous pardon by Queen Elizabeth.
“It was nothing short of a tragedy how a country he had served with such distinction treated him after the war, persecuting him for his homosexuality…. That’s why it’s wonderful to see Turing on the note, as a powerful symbol of the long overdue recognition he deserves,” said British AI researcher Demis Hassabis at the unveiling, “The technology we use every day and can’t imagine life without – none of this would have been possible without Turing’s work.”
When the new note is introduced, it will complete the UK’s transition to new banknotes that are made out of polymer rather than paper.
They made a weird video to announce the new note:
It’s the very least the UK can do.
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