(Blogmensgo, gay blog of 31 July 2019) The Bank of England (BoE) will publish a new 50 pound note with the picture of British mathematician Alan Turing in 2021. British internet users were asked on the BoE website in November and December 2018 to suggest names of scientists for new banknotes. Only dead British scientists of all disciplines except economics were considered as suggestions because Adam Smith is already represented on the 20 pound notes today.
The famous mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing won the survey and will thus appear on the next 50 pound banknote. The current note, which shows the physicists Matthew Boulton and James Watt, will then be withdrawn from circulation. A total of 989 names were proposed, from which a short list of 12 persons was selected. Turing won the selection ahead of mathematician Ada Lovelace (also a computer pioneer), chemist Dorothy Hodgkin and biologist Rosalind Franklin (who discovered the double helix structure of DNA with Watson, Crick and Wilkins) and astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
In the end, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, decided between the 12 finalists. With the help of a group of scientists he chose the name of Alan Turing. Here is the video of this decision:
The new 50 pound note shows a portrait of Alan Turing, his date of birth (23 June 1912) in binary code, one of his mathematical formulae and the following sentence he said in an interview with The Times on 11 June 1949:
This is only a foretaste of what will come, and only a shadow of what will be.
Alain Turing (1912-1954)
From the end of 2021, in addition to the brilliant mathematician Alan Turing (£50), Winston Churchill (£5), Jane Austen (£10) and William Turner (£20, instead of Adam Smith) will also be represented on the British banknotes.
Alan Turing shaped the history of the Second World War by breaking the encryption codes used by the Nazis to encode their secret messages. This achievement by the 30-year-old mathematician undoubtedly accelerated the Allies’ victory over the German army. Even today, Turing is still regarded as a pioneer of computer science and artificial intelligence, although the “Turing test” for deciding whether someone speaks with another human being or with a robot is considered obsolete today.
Despite his immense fame in scientific circles, Alan Turing was convicted in 1952 of a homosexual relationship with Arnold Murray. Turing’s conviction for gross indecency was followed by coercive treatment with estrogens that was totally unacceptable to a freethinker like Alan Turing.
Alan Turing committed suicide on June 7, 1954, and his body was found the next day. Similar to Snow White he is said to have bitten into an apple poisoned with cyanide. Even though the first official Apple logo (a colorfully bitten apple) is reminiscent of Alan Turing’s homosexuality and suicide, this is a pure coincidence and not an (un)voluntary tribute – at least according to the official explanation of Apple and the creator of the Rainbow Apple logo.
On this blog, we have already talked about a theater play entitled The Turing Machine. This piece by Benoit Solès has been a great success in French theatres since its premiere in 2018 and has won four Molière awards in 2019. Moviegoers could see Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, a 2014 film by Morten Tyldum.
On 10 September 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown personally apologized for the unworthy and abominable treatment of Alan Turing by his country. An amendment to the law on the amnesty of gays previously convicted of homosexual relationships came into force on 31 January 2017 under the name “Turing Law.” But most of the victims of these unjust condemnations, like Alan Turing, had long since died.
Through his discoveries, his work, his homosexuality and his amnesty, “Turing’s legacy still influences science and society today,” said Mark Carney in a keynote address.
Comment: Better late than never… The choice of Turing for the new banknote is tantamount to a great (but late) honor. The face value of the £50 note is so high that only few British people will have the opportunity to see and feel it.
In any case, the design of the future Alan Turing banknote is absolutely great. Much more beautiful than the old English pound banknotes and perhaps even more elegant than the euro banknotes. In any case, however, it makes much more sense.
Frank-S / MensGo