"Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today," Bank of England governor Mark Carney said in the bank's announcement on Monday. "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."
The PS50 note will feature Turing, a codebreaker and early computer scientist whose innovative thinking was integral to breaking Nazi codes during World War II and helping the Allied Fforces defeat the Axis powers. Despite Turing's heroic deeds, he was deemed a criminal less than a decade after the end of the war when he was found guilty of having sex with a man. He was sentenced to chemical castration in 1952 and eventually driven to suicide.
"It's important that we remember and recognize the impact of LGBT figures throughout history, so it's great that Alan Turing will be the face on the new PS50 bank note," Kim Sanders, director of communications at LGBTQ+ rights organization Stonewall in the U.K, said in a statement. "It's vital that we celebrate LGBT history, which is often less visible, and make sure that we represent the diversity of those who paved the way before us."
Years after his death, Turing's early contributions to technology have become more fully embraced, materializing in a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch, an official royal pardon in 2013, and other accolades. John Leech, a former MP who lobbied for Turing's pardon said it was a "fitting and welcome tribute" according to the BBC, adding, "but more importantly I hope it will serve as a stark and rightfully painful reminder of what we lost in Turing, and what we risk when we allow that kind of hateful ideology to win."
The Bank of England received 227,299 nominations after it put a call out for suggestions for a scientist that should be featured on the PS50 note. Finalists included Ada Lovelace and Stephen Hawking. The photo of Turing will be a 1951 portrait, his signature from the visitor's book at the famed Bletchley Park, where codebreaking efforts were concentrated during the war, and a quote of his from a 1949 interview with the Times of London: "This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be."