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£50 Banknote Pays Tribute to Alan Turing’s Achievements | Pride Month Series

By June 23, 2021 3 min read

Alan Turing, computer scientist, mathematician, cryptanalyst, and theoretical biologist, is featured on the new £50 banknote to celebrate his contributions to the scientific and mathematical fraternities. The banknote’s design incorporates various elements from Turing’s life and legacy. The banknote will be issued starting today, June 23, Turing’s birthday. The British public chose Turing out of 989 eligible scientists nominated by 227,299 people. 

Banknote issued in tribute to Alan Turing’s many scientific achievements

Turing is known for designing the British Bombe, an electro-mechanical apparatus that helped crack German Enigma machine-encrypted code during World War II. Historians believe this effort altered the war’s course, shortening it by at least two years and saving millions of lives. 

Turing also laid the theoretical groundwork for the modern computer. He devised the Turing machine, i.e., a hypothetical machine intended to investigate the extent and limitations of computation. He worked on the early development of the world’s first computing devices with the National Physical Laboratory and later at the University of Manchester. Turing is also considered a founding father of artificial intelligence, known for designing the “Turing test” to help determine whether a computer can think like a human being. 

Turing’s selection to appear on the banknote celebrates his scientific legacy and recognizes the persecution he endured for his sexuality. In 1952, the British government arrested and charged Turing with “gross indecency” for homosexual acts, which remained illegal at the time. Two years later, he died tragically at the age of 41 by suicide. The Queen issued Turing a posthumous Royal Pardon in 2013. 

Banknote artwork honors Turing’s legacy

The reverse side of the note features clever visual references that celebrate Turing’s achievements.  

  • Turing’s birthday is in binary code on a ticker tape. 

          Alan Turing birthday written in binary on banknote released in June Pride Month 2021   

  • His signature appears on the note, copied from the visitor’s signature book from Bletchley Park, where he worked during WW2. 

          Alan Turing signature on banknote released in June Pride Month 2021

  • A quote Turing gave to the Times newspaper on innovation in computing devices: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is going to be.” 

          Alan Turing quote on banknote released in June Pride Month 2021

  • The note’s conventional security foil has changed to resemble the design of a microchip.
  • Mathematical tables and formulae appear on the note. They appeared in Turing’s celebrated paper, “On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem.” The article introduced the concept of the Turing Machine and is considered the basis of modern computer science.

             Alan Turing banknote released in June Pride Month 2021

  • The Pilot Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) Machine was developed at the NPL (National Physical Laboratory), as the first Turing’s ACE design model. This computer is considered the first complete specification of an electronic stored-program, all-purpose digital computer. 
  • Technical drawings for the British Bombe, the machine used to decipher German code messages. 

Computer science isn’t the only field Turing revolutionized. So the note also includes a sunflower-shaped foil patch, showing his initials, “A.T.” The patch symbolizes Turing’s pioneering work in morphogenetics, another branch of science that studies recurring patterns in nature.

Turing.com pays homage to Alan Turing’s legacy.

Turing.com was named after Alan Turing to honor his legacy of scientific innovation and invention. Alan Turing laid the groundwork for modern computer science and artificial intelligence. Today, Turing.com enables exceptionally talented software engineers to work with elite US companies and build cutting-edge software products. The company also uses AI/ML to help companies vet, hire, onboard, and manage developers. Alan Turing’s contributions made this possible.

Read more about the £50 note here

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