Alan Turing – the face of the new £50 note

Turing note

The Bank of England has announced that Alan Turing’s face will grace the new £50 note.

Turing, as if anyone reading this website needs to know, was the English mathematician and computer scientist who worked at Bletchley Park during World War II, developing a pioneering electro-mechanical device (known as “The Bombe”) which dramatically sped up the cracking of secret messages encypted by Germany’s cypher machine Enigma.

Turing’s work is regarded by historians as vital to the war effort, helping to shorten the conflict by perhaps two years.

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Turing was a pioneer of computer science, but his achievements and immense contribution at Bletchley Park were not publicly recognised in his lifetime due to the nature of the work being classified top secret.

Turing’s place as one of the founding fathers of modern computing was secured, however, with a paper published in 1950, proposing a test which could test machine intelligence.

Turing test paper

Turing’s idea was that rather the question “Can machines think?” could be replaced with one that asked “Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?”

Everytime you complete an online CAPTCHA form, you’re effectively a contestant in the imitation game, referred by a website that is trying to determine if you are a genuine human or a bot.

Tragically, the establishment treated Turing disgracefully in the years after the war. In 1952, Turing was convicted of “gross indecency” (male homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967), and – rather than be sent to prison – the mathematical genius chose to be chemically castrated.

Turing’s security clearance was revoked and he was barred from working for GCHQ. In June 1954, at the age of 41, Turing killed himself by poisoning himself with cyanide.

It took over 50 years for the British government to apologise and give Turing a posthumous pardon.

It’s too little and too late, of course, to make up for the horrendous way that Turing was treated by the establishment. But it’s a good thing that he has been honoured as one of the country’s greatest scientists by becoming the face of the new £50 note.

You might be amused by this rather bonkers video produced by the Bank of England, unveiling the new note.

The new £50 note character reveal and shortlist – Think Science!

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

3 comments on “Alan Turing – the face of the new £50 note”

  1. Dr David Hill

    Although the people voted for Turing and others, the Establishment decided who it would be and where the Establishment have ultimately a great deal to answer for his final demise. Hypocrites comes clearly into play as usual.

    The ‘Establishment’ Makes Amends but where the ‘Establishment’ does not change its spots when it comes to its own –

  2. Kevin Stevens

    This is only a foretaste of what is to come
    and only the shadow of what is going to be.

  3. Hayton

    What else might Alan Turing have accomplished had he not been driven to suicide by his treatment at the hands of the State?

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