While best known for his work devising code-breaking machines during World War II, Alan Turing played a pivotal role in the development of early computers. (Photo credit: Twitter)
Alan Turing, a computer pioneer and World War II codebreaker will be on the new 50 pound polymer note, the Bank of England announced on Monday after it selected him from a shortlist that included famed Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney announced that Turing will appear on the new note by the end of 2021. Turing, who killed himself in 1954 at the age of 41 after he was subjected to chemical castration following his conviction under the Victorian-era homophobic laws.
Carney made the announcement at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester and also revealed the imagery depicting Turing and his work that will be used for the reverse of the note. Turing was chosen following the Bank's character selection process including advice from scientific experts, the BoE said in a statement.
In 2018, the Banknote Character Advisory Committee chose to celebrate the field of science on the 50 pound 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, it said. The Committee considered all the nominations before deciding on a shortlist of 12 options, which were put to Governor Carney for him to make the final decision.
"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," Carney commented on the 41-year-old computer pioneer who died in 1954.
Turing provided the theoretical underpinnings for the modern computer. While best known for his work devising code-breaking machines during World War II, 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, the BoE statement noted.
The shortlisted options demonstrate the breadth of scientific achievement in the UK, from astronomy to physics, chemistry to palaeontology and mathematics to biochemistry. The shortlisted characters, or pairs of characters, considered 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, Frederick Sanger and Alan Turing.
Ramanujan's contributions to the theory of numbers include pioneering discoveries of the properties of the partition function. Born in Erode, Tamil Nadu, Ramanujan died at the age of 32. Sarah John, Chief Cashier of the BoE, said: "The strength of the shortlist is testament to the UK's incredible scientific contribution. The breadth of individuals and achievements reflects the huge range of nominations we received for this note and I would to thank the public for all their suggestions of scientists we could celebrate."
The new 50 pound note will celebrate Turing and his pioneering work with computers, the statement said.