During his lifetime, the mathematician and computer pioneer’s reputation was overshadowed by a conviction under Britain’s Victorian laws against homosexuality, and his war work remained a secret until decades later.
LONDON — Alan Turing, the computing pioneer who became one of the most influential code breakers of World War II, has been chosen by the Bank of England to be the new face of its 50-pound note.
The decision to put Mr. Turing on the highest-denomination English bank note, worth about $62, adds to growing public recognition of his achievements. His reputation during his lifetime was overshadowed by a conviction under Britain’s Victorian laws against homosexuality, and his war work remained a secret until decades later.
“Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today,” Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, said in a statement. “As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as a war hero, Alan Turing’s contributions were far-ranging and path breaking.”
“Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand,” Mr. Carney added.
The central bank announced last year that it wanted to honor someone in the field of science on the next version of the bill, which was last redesigned in 2011, and Mr. Turing was chosen from a list of 227,299 nominees that included Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking, Ada Lovelace and Margaret Thatcher (who worked as a chemical researcher before entering politics).
“The strength of the shortlist is testament to the U.K.’s incredible scientific contribution,” Sarah John, the Bank of England’s chief cashier, said in a statement.
The bank plans to put the new note into circulation by the end of 2021.
Bank of England bills feature Queen Elizabeth’s face on one side, and a notable figure from British history on the other. Scientists previously honored in this way include Newton, Darwin and the electrical pioneer Michael Faraday. The current £50 features James Watt, a key figure in the development of the steam engine, and Matthew Boulton, the industrialist who backed him.
Mr. Turing’s work provided the theoretical basis for modern computers, and for ideas of artificial intelligence. His work on code-breaking machines during World War II also drove forward the development of computing, and is regarded as having significantly affected the course of the war.
Mr. Turing died in 1954, two years after being convicted under Victorian laws against homosexuality and forced to endure chemical castration. The British government apologized for his treatment in 2009, and Queen Elizabeth granted him a royal pardon in 2013.
The note will feature a photograph of Mr. Turing from 1951 that is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery. His work will also be celebrated on the reverse side, which will include a table and mathematical formulas from a paper by Mr. Turing from 1936 that is recognized as foundational for computer science.
It will also include a quote from a 1949 interview about one of the computers he helped develop: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”
Amie Tsang is a general assignment business reporter based in London, where she has covered a variety of topics, including the gender pay gap, aviation and the London Fatberg. @amietsang
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