The Margin: Britain’s new £50 note featuring Alan Turing will enter circulation on the WWII codebreaker’s birthday


The father of modern computing will become the face of England’s new £50 note on what would have been his 109th birthday.

Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney revealed in the summer of 2019 that  WWII codebreaker and computer science pioneer Alan Turing would be featured on the polymer note by the end of 2021. The bank clarified this week that the note will be formally issued to the public on June 23, which is Turing’s birthday.

Turing is credited with providing the theoretical underpinnings for the modern computer, but he was even more famous for devising code-breaking machines for the Allies to decipher Nazi messages during WWII that is believed to have helped shorten the war by two to four years, likely saving millions of lives.

Yet while Turing was celebrated as a war hero, he was also convicted of “gross indecency” under homophobic Victorian laws in 1952 for having a sexual relationship with a man. He was chemically castrated and stripped of his security clearance, which meant he could no longer crack codes. He died of cyanide poisoning in 1954, the BBC reported, which an inquest at the time determined was suicide, although some biographers question that finding. Turing received a posthumous royal pardon in 2013.

Turing’s biography was the basis for the 2014 historical drama “The Imitation Game,” where he was played by Benedict Cumberbatch. When the movie was released, Cumberbatch told the Telegraph that Turing was “someone who’s up there with Charles Darwin; he should be on bank notes.”

The Bank of England flew the rainbow flag, a symbol of LGBTQ pride, in Turing’s honor on Thursday in the heart of London.

Turing’s £50 note uses a 1951 photo of him that is part of the Photographs Collection at the National Portrait Gallery, along with a table and mathematical formula from his 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers,” aka “the Turing machine,” which is widely recognized as being a foundation of computer science. And it features a metallic hologram that changes between the words “Fifty” and “Pounds” when one tilts the bill, as well as an image of a microchip, along with other hidden details honoring his achievements.

Read more: The face of Britain’s new £50 note is Alan Turing, a WWII codebreaker considered the father of computer science

The bank also worked with the U.K. intelligence and security agency GCHQ to create The Turing Challenge, which is a series of 12 puzzles that could reportedly take an experienced puzzler several hours to crack, the Associated Press reported. Turing’s great-nephew James Turing told BBC radio that the puzzle is “a wonderful recognition” of his great-uncle.

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