codebreaker

UK reveals new banknote featuring gay, maths genius Alan Turing

Both sides of the new £50 banknote
Both sides of the new £50 banknote (Image: Bank of England)

The Bank of England has revealed its latest banknote redesign. Featuring the Queen of England on one side, the reverse of the new £50 note (approximately worth $69) will feature the persecuted, gay mathematician and early computing pioneer, Alan Turing.

The note will enter circulation on June 23, which also marks Turing’s birthday.

Alan Turing is regarded by many as the father of modern computing. Born in 1912, he showed a prodigious talent for mathematics from a young age.

He worked as a codebreaker for the British during the Second World War and was instrumental in helping design a machine that helped decipher Nazi secret codes.

After the war, he went on to create a design for an Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) – regarded by many as the first digital computer model.

He was also gay and did not go to great lengths to hide the fact from friends and colleagues, despite it being illegal at the time.

In 1952, he was arrested and charged with gross indecency after admitting to a sexual relationship with a 19-year-old man. He was spared prison under the condition he allowed himself to be ‘chemically castrated’ with hormones.

Related: Rare artifact from queer history pops up after nearly 150 years… on Google

The so-called treatment proved traumatic. Not only did it cause Turing to grow breasts, but the chemicals also altered his thinking, making it hard for him to concentrate. Now deemed a ‘security risk’, he also faced continued harassment from police.

He took his own life in 1954, aged 41.

The Queen granted Turing a posthumous pardon in 2013. Turing’s life was told in the 2014 movie, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing.

Although it was announced in 2019 that Turing would feature on the new £50 note, following suggestions and votes from the public, the actual design and date of distribution was unveiled this morning.


In a video unveiling the design, the actor Stephen Fry said the Turing banknote marks “another step in our nation’s long-overdue recognition of this very great man.”

Related: Benedict Cumberbatch thinks Alan Turing should be celebrated as a gay icon on banknotes

The Bank of England also marked the announcement by flying the rainbow flag over its headquarters in London. The £50 note will be the UK’s final banknote switch from paper to polymer (plastic), making the notes considerably more durable and hard to create forgeries.

The Bank of England in London
The Bank of England in London (Photo: Twitter)