Value for money

Today in the UK we get a fresh design for one of our bank notes and the worthy £50 image is apt for Pride month as it now features a man whose legacy should never be forgotten: Alan Turing – a leading mathematician, developmental biologist, and a pioneer in the field of computer science.

Alan Turing helped accelerate Allied efforts to read German naval messages enciphered with the Enigma machine and his work was crucial to the shortening of World War Two. In 2009, British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated” and the Queen granted Turing a posthumous pardon in 2013. The Alan Turing Law is now an informal term for a 2017 law in the United Kingdom that retroactively pardoned men cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts. Alan Turing was arrested after having an affair with a man and was forced to take female hormones as an alternative to prison. He died at the age of just 41 and the inquest recorded his death as suicide.

“By placing him on our new polymer £50 banknote, we are celebrating his achievements, and the values he symbolises.”
– Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England.

I believe that currency here in the United Kingdom is some of the best in the world in terms of design and this new addition builds on and strengthens an impressive creative legacy and slowly helps address issues of diversity. The image of Turing was taken from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection and was photographed by Elliot and Fry in 1951 but the note also includes plenty of more subtle design details that most would easily overlook.

There’s a table and mathematical formulae from one of Turing’s published papers and technical drawings for the British Bombe, one of the primary tools used to break Enigma-enciphered messages. A quote from Alan Turing is also included – “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be”. His signature from a visitor’s book which is on display at Bletchley Park is also shown and a ticker tape depicting his birth date of 23 June 1912 in binary code weaves around the design.

Turing’s life was criminally short and we owe him a great debt. This new note is one gesture that reminds us just how far we’ve come and how we must learn from the past in order to never repeat its disgraces.



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