LONDON (AP) – The rainbow flag flew proudly over the Bank of England in the heart of London’s financial district Thursday to commemorate World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, the new face of the British £ 50 note. .
The banknote design was unveiled before it was formally issued to the public on June 23, Turing’s birthday. The 50-pound note is the most valuable denomination in circulation, but it is little used during daily transactions, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, as digital payments increasingly replace the use of cash.
The new banknote, which is loaded with high-level security features and is made from a longer-lasting polymer, completes the bank’s adjustment of its paper currencies in recent years. Turing’s image joins Winston Churchill on the £ 5 note, novelist Jane Austen on the £ 10 note, and artist JMW Turner on the £ 20 note.
Turing was selected as the new face of the £ 50 note in 2019 following a public nomination process that garnered around 250,000 votes, in part in recognition of the discrimination he faced as a gay man after the war.
Among his many accomplishments, Turing is most famous for the pivotal role he played in breaking the Enigma code of Nazi Germany during World War II. The code was believed to be unbreakable as the encryption was continually changing. Historians say that cracking the code may have helped shorten the war by at least two years, potentially saving millions of lives.
“There is something of the character of a nation in their money, and we are right to consider and celebrate the people in our banknotes,” said Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey.
“Turing is best known for his code-breaking work at Bletchley Park, which helped end World War II. However, he was also a prominent mathematician, developmental biologist, and pioneer in the field of computer science. He was also gay and was treated horribly as a result. “
During World War II, Turing worked at the secret code-breaking center in Bletchley Park, where he helped crack the Enigma by creating the “Turing bombe,” the forerunner of modern computers. He also developed the “Turing Test” to measure artificial intelligence.
After the war, he was prosecuted for his relationship with a man in Manchester and given a choice between imprisonment and probation on the condition that he undergo female hormone treatment, which at the time was used as a form of chemical castration.
His conviction led to the removal of his security clearance and meant that he could no longer work for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). He died at age 41 in 1954 after eating an apple laced with cyanide.
Turing received a posthumous apology from the British government in 2009 and a royal pardon in 2013. Four years later, Turing’s law was passed, pardoning gay men with past convictions.
Actor and author Stephen Fry said the latest Turing commemoration marks another step in the nation’s recognition of “this great man,” whose “talents spread far and wide.”
In a YouTube video posted by the bank, Fry laid out the levels of discrimination and “barbaric punishments” gay men faced in the years after World War II.
“Alan Turing was among the thousands of men who were harassed and harassed by the authorities,” he said. “Not only because of the hostile attitude towards his sexuality, but also because of the intolerant belief that there was a link between homosexuality and communism.”
Over the past decade, Turing’s life has become known to a much wider audience, especially in the wake of the 2014 film “The Imitation Game,” in which Benedict Cumberbatch played the role of Turing.
As part of the design of the new banknote, which includes a metallic hologram that switches between the words “Fifty” and “Pounds” when the banknote is tilted and the image of a microchip, the bank collaborated with the intelligence and security agency of the bank. UK GCHQ to create The Turing Challenge, a set of 12 puzzles
GCHQ said the full challenge could take an experienced puzzle seven hours to complete and may even have left Turing “scratching his head, although we highly doubt that.”
Turing’s great-nephew, James Turing, who runs the Turing Trust restoring UK computers for use in African schools, told BBC radio that the puzzle is “a wonderful recognition and a bit reminiscent of the famous crossword they used to recruit in Bletchley Park back in the day.”