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Design for new £50 note featuring gay mathematician Alan Turing released

The new Alan Turing 50-pound bill.
The new Alan Turing 50-pound bill. Photo: Bank of England

The Bank of England has just released the design for the new £50 bill that features Alan Turing.

Turing was a gay mathematician whose theories were highly influential in the development of computer science, and his work during World War II helped Allied forces crack coded Nazi messages and defeat Axis forces, a crucial part in winning the war.

Related: The ‘Imitation’ Alan Turing vs. the real Alan Turing: Victim vs. hero

After World War II, he was prosecuted because he admitting to having a relationship with another man and was forced to take feminizing hormones.

In 1954, he died at age 41 and his death was recorded as a suicide. In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II pardoned him.

The bill’s design contains a multitude of references to Turing and his work. It uses a 1951 photo of Turing that is currently part of the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London as well as ticker tape showing his birthday in binary code.

The concept for a machine fed by binary tape was discussed in his 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem,” and formulae from that paper are on the bill. The paper is considered “foundational for computer science,” according to the Bank of England.

The bill also has a quote from Turing from a 1949 interview: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

“He was a leading mathematician, developmental biologist, and a pioneer in the field of computer science,” said Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey. “He was also gay, and was treated appallingly as a result.”

“By placing him on our new polymer £50 banknote, we are celebrating his achievements, and the values he symbolizes.”

The new £50 bill will be made of polymer to increase durability and to make them harder to forge. It has security features like holograms, see-through windows, and foil patches.

It will enter circulation on June 23.

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