Patterico's Pontifications


Alan Turing: Face Of The New 50-Pound Note

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:47 pm

[guest post by Dana]

From the Washington Post:

Alan Turing, a founding father of computer science and artificial intelligence, was revealed Monday as the face of Britain’s new 50-pound bank note.

Turning was also famed as a World War II codebreaker whose work was widely credited with hastening the end of the war and saving thousands of lives. He committed suicide after he was convicted of engaging in homosexual activity, then a criminal offense in Britain.

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, said that “as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as war hero, Alan Turing’s contributions were far-ranging and pathbreaking.” He called Turing “a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”

The new note, expected to enter circulation at the end of 2021, will include an image of Turing, ticker tape of his birth date in binary code, and a table and formulas from a 1936 paper that introduced the concept of how computers could operate.

It will also include a quote from Turing, given to the Times of London newspaper in 1949: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

The shortlist included 12 candidates from the fields of mathematics and science.

Note: Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a royal pardon for his “crime” of homosexuality in 2013.

Here is the concept image of the new Turing 50-pound note:


Here is a rundown of what is included in the image:

A photo of Turing taken in 1951 by Elliott & Fry which is part of the Photographs Collection at the National Portrait Gallery.

A table and mathematical formulae from Turing’s seminal 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers…

The Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) Pilot Machine which was developed at the National Physical Laboratory as the trial model of Turing’s pioneering ACE design. The ACE was one of the first electronic stored-program digital computers.

Technical drawings for the British Bombe, the machine specified by Turing and one of the primary tools used to break Enigma-enciphered messages during WWII.

A quote from Alan Turing, given in an interview to The Times newspaper on 11 June 1949: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

Turing’s signature from the visitor’s book at Bletchley Park in 1947, where he worked during WWII.

Ticker tape depicting Alan Turing’s birth date (23 June 1912) in binary code. The concept of a machine fed by binary tape featured in the Turing’s 1936 paper.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


13 Responses to “Alan Turing: Face Of The New 50-Pound Note”

  1. I love the bold design of the note, and how it contains so much of Turing.

    Dana (bb0678)

  2. I’m glad Turing is being recognized for his work, but he didn’t solve Enigma alone. It was a group effort and and international one. The Poles and French never get the proper credit. I think the guy’s who discovered DNA or Alexander Fleming were more important.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  3. Now that I read the short list its incredible that Turing got it over Maxwell and Rutherford. The last man was absolutely essential (much more then Einstein) in mapping the atom and giving us Nuclear Energy. Maxwell meanwhile was voted the 3rd greatest physicist after Newton and Einstein. But I guess Turing is a more ‘Sexy’ choice. He was gay. He had a movie made about him. And his work involved computers and “winning the war”.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  4. This is a wonderful piece of currency. Leave it to the Brits to do this sort of thing up right. Their 50P piece is awesome; their pound-shilling-pence pieces were coin of he realm masterpieces as well. Collected British postage stamps a way back in the day,too; the Royal Mail was an art gallery in transit; far surpassed American clutter.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  5. Now that I read the short list its incredible that Turing got it over Maxwell and Rutherford.

    Physicists not named Einstein get no respect…

    Between the two of them, Maxwell would win hands down if it were up to me.

    On the other hand, Rutherford once said “All science is either physics or stamp-collecting,” which would be cool to see written on a piece of currency…

    Dave (1bb933)

  6. This explains the Bank of England’s decision-making process:

    We make the decision based on the characters’ strengths, not how many nominations they get. We also take account of who we’ve chosen in the past, because we want to make sure we feature a wide diversity of people and fields on our notes.

    The Governor has responded to a letter from Helen Grant MP about the diversity considerations throughout the character selection process.

    Dana (bb0678)

  7. The cost of authority is very high. We persist despite the cost to us as they try to crush our human spirit.

    lany (057604)

  8. According the web, British currency currently features (in addition to Her Majesty):

    5 pounds: Winston Churchill
    10 pounds: Jane Austen (previously Charles Darwin)
    20 pounds: Adam Smith (previously a composer, will be replaced by painter JMW Turner in 2020)
    50 pounds: Boulton and Watt (inventors of the steam engine, will be replaced by Turing)

    There are no 100 pound or higher denomination notes in circulation.

    I dunno, it seems to me that Churchill and Newton should just get permanent spots, and they can rotate less important people through the other two denominations.

    Dave (1bb933)

  9. I thought the news that Beto was rushing to claim membership in the ‘My Ancestors Owned Slaves’ Club was the funniest thing I’d see today until I saw this:

    harkin (58d012)

  10. This is marvelous. At some point he’ll be rotated out, but he deserved a turn, and they’re really making the thing about him. Fantastic! Thanks for this!

    JRM (0e0233)

  11. The picture looks like George Stephanopoulos

    BillPasadena (3511cf)

  12. This is good.

    However, Turing wasn’t alone. The American, Claude Shannon may have contributed more to the same fields that Turing, and they collaborated during WW2. Among other things, Shannon developed the theoretical basis for EVERY communication system now in use.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  13. I had never heard of Shannon, and after skimming his Wikipedia bio I’m amazed by that.

    I am (slightly) familiar with the connection between entropy and information theory, but not its history. If you’d asked me, I’d have guessed that von Neumann invented it.

    Dave (1bb933)

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