Alan Turing: Pioneering codebreaker unveiled as face of new £50 note

76
Code-breaker and computer science pioneer Alan Turing is to be the face of new £50 note

Code-breaker and computer science pioneer Alan Turing is to be the face of new £50 note, the Bank of England announced today.

The polymer note will enter circulation by the end of 2021.

Making the announcement at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, said: “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.”

“Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today,” said Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

“As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as a war hero, Alan Turing’s contributions were far ranging and path breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”

Why was Turing chosen?

The work Alan Turing, who was educated in Sherborne, Dorset, helped accelerate Allied efforts to read German Naval messages enciphered with the Enigma machine.

Less celebrated is the pivotal role he played in the development of early computers, first at the National Physical Laboratory and later at the University of Manchester.

Royal pardon for codebreaker Alan Turing

Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts; the Labouchere Amendment had mandated that “gross indecency” was a criminal offence in the UK. He accepted chemical castration treatment, with DES, as an alternative to prison. Turing died in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning.

In 2013, he was given a posthumous royal pardon for his 1952 conviction for gross indecency following which he was chemically castrated. He had been arrested after having an affair with a 19-year-old Manchester man.

Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing has been given a posthumous royal pardon.

It addresses his 1952 conviction for gross indecency following which he was chemically castrated.

He had been arrested after having an affair with a 19-year-old Manchester man.

The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop the code-cracking work that had proved vital to the Allies in World War Two.

The pardon was granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling.

‘Appalling’ treatment

“Dr Alan Turing was an exceptional man with a brilliant mind,” said Mr Grayling.

He said the research Turing carried out during the war at Bletchley Park undoubtedly shortened the conflict and saved thousands of lives.

Turing’s work helped accelerate Allied efforts to read German Naval messages enciphered with the Enigma machine. He also contributed some more fundamental work on codebreaking that was only released to public scrutiny in April 2012.

“His later life was overshadowed by his conviction for homosexual activity, a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed,” said Mr Grayling.

“Turing deserves to be remembered and recognised for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science. A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.”

Turing died in June 1954 from cyanide poisoning and an inquest decided that he had committed suicide. However, biographers, friends and other students of his life dispute the finding and suggest his death was an accident.

Many people have campaigned for years to win a pardon for Turing.

The Bank said his legacy continued to have an impact on science and society today.

The Bank asked the public to offer suggestions for the scientist whose portrait should appear on the £50 note. In six weeks, the Bank received 227,299 nominations covering 989 eligible scientists.

A shortlist was drawn up by a committee, including experts from the field of science, before the governor made the final decision.

This is a "Pay as You Feel" website Please help keep us Ad Free.

You can have access to all of our online work for free. However if you want to support what we do, you could make a small donation to help us keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.