Turing is coming ...

The design of the new 2021 type 50-pound banknote has just been unveiled to the general public by the Bank of England. The note will be put into circulation on June 23, 2021. This date is highly symbolic since it corresponds to the birthday of Alan Turing (1912-1954), whose portrait illustrates the back of this new polymer note.

In 2012, it was the year of the 100th anniversary of the birth ... of the man at the origin of the foundations of computing (1); but the Bank of England was probably not yet ready to celebrate ... a homosexual on one of its banknotes (see below). Turing will not be pardoned posthumously until 2009 by the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. It was therefore only in 2019 that the British mathematician and cryptologist was finally selected, in recognition of his revolutionary work in mathematics and computer science, as well as for his role in deciphering the Enigma code used by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. We owe him all the same our computers, programs and algorithms on which I am writing these few lines ...

As well as honoring his scientific achievements, Turing was also selected to appear on the bank note in recognition of his persecution by the UK government for homosexuality. Turing was openly gay among friends, but in 1952 was arrested and charged with “gross indecency”for homosexual acts, which were illegal in England and Wales until 1967. Despite changes to the law, prosecution of same-sex acts continued in the UK for decades afterwards.

Turing did not deny the charges and was convicted and sentenced to chemical castration. He wrote in a letter before he was charged: “No doubt I shall emerge from it all a different man, but quite who I’ve not found out.”He died two years later at the age of 41 after eating an apple laced with cyanide. Historians still disagree over whether this was suicide or a case of accidental poisoning.”(2)

The 50 pounds type 2021

The illustration on the front shows the classic elements of a British banknote and the traditional portrait unchanged since 1990 of HRH Queen Elizabeth II ... or the eternal youth of the oldest queen in the world? Many security signs are present: hologram, transparent windows, ultraviolet number, raised dots.

You will find on the Bank of England website, all this technical information gathered on a page specially devoted to this new 50 pounds type 2021: The new £ 50 note.

The note is signed by Sarah John, Chief Cashier and Director of Notes.


Above: front of the 50 pounds type 2021 (Pick: #NA). Dimensions: 146 x 77 mm.

The reverse side illustration celebrates Alan Turing and his pioneering work on computers. Alan Turing's portrait is based on a 1951 photo by Elliott & Fry which is part of the National Portrait Gallery's collection of photographs. The overall composition takes up a number of situations related to Turing's life and legacy, such as the technical drawings of the bomb, the decryption device used during World War II, a ticker string with Turing's birthday rendered in binary (23 June 1912), a green and gold security foil resembling a microchip and an array and mathematical formulas taken from one of Turing's most famous documents. Finally, A unique serial number is printed horizontally and vertically.


Above: back of the 50 pounds type 2021 with the portrait of Alan Turing (in pink ... a wink probably?).


(1) Centenary celebrated as it should be by Google and its doodles!
(2) from the article "The UK's new £ 50 note celebrates Alan Turing with lots of geeky Easter eggs" published by James Vincent on March 25, 2021 on the "THE VERGE" website.

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