The Imitation Game: Bank of England picks World War-II code breaker Turing on £50 notes

The Bank of England on Monday said World War II code breaker Alan Turing has been chosen to feature on the back of Britain's new £50 banknote.

Historic move

"Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today," Bank of England governor Mark Carney said as he unveiled the note at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, northwest England.

"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," the BoE chief added.

The Bank of England on Monday said World War II code-breaker Alan Turing had been chosen to feature on the back of Britain's new £50 banknote. 


Played a pivotal role

The Bank of England said that Turing played a pivotal role in the development of early computers. Due to enter circulation by the end of 2021, the note shows a photo of Turing taken in 1951.

Turing received a posthumous pardon from Queen Elizabeth II in 2013 over a conviction in 1952 for gross indecency with a 19-year-old man. He did not go to prison but was chemically castrated and died of cyanide poisoning in an apparent suicide in 1954, aged 41.


The Imitation Game

In 2017, the 'Alan Turing Law' posthumously pardoned men who had been cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts in Britain.

The Oscar-winning 2014 film "The Imitation Game" starring Benedict Cumber batch brought belated acclaim for Turing's role in wartime code breaking.


New face on bank note

The Bank of England is putting new faces on Britain's bank notes as it switches from paper to polymer, a thin, flexible plastic film that is seen as more durable and secure.

Turing's work at Bletchley Park, Britain's wartime code breaking centre, was credited with shortening the war and saving many thousands of lives.

But he was stripped of his job and chemically castrated after being convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for having sex with a man. Homosexual sex was illegal in Britain until 1967.

Turing killed himself in 1954, aged 41, with cyanide. He was granted a royal pardon by Queen Elizabeth in 2013 for the criminal conviction that led to his suicide.


New polymer notes

The new polymer £5 and £10 notes already in circulation show wartime leader Winston Churchill and author Jane Austen respectively.

Queen Elizabeth II features on the front of Britain's banknotes.

As well as an image of Turing, the new note will feature a table and mathematical formulae from a 1936 paper by Turing on computable numbers, an image of a pilot computer and technical drawings for the machines used to break the Enigma code.

The note will also include a quote by Turing about the rise of machine intelligence: "This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be."

The 50-pound note is the BoE's highest-value banknote and is rarely used in daily transactions. The new note is expected to enter circulation by the end of 2021, the BoE said.