Think science and celebrate Alan Turing

The scientist Alan Turing features on our polymer £50 note. The Turing £50 was issued on 23 June 2021.

Alan Turing will be the face on the £50

On 15 July 2019, we announced that Alan Turing will be on our new £50 note. Watch our video:

Find out what members of our advisory committee said:

A big thank you to everyone who got involved

We had a fantastic response when we asked you to help us choose the face of the new £50. We got 227,299 nominations for 989 different scientists during our six-week nomination period.

The shortlist

The Banknote Character Advisory Committee, with the help of public focus groups, created a shortlist of 12 options.  These were:

Mary Anning (1799-1847) – a self-taught palaeontologist known around the world for the fossil discoveries she made in her hometown of Lyme Regis.

Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac (1902-1984) – whose research revolutionised our understanding of the universe’s smallest matter.

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) – who drove the discovery of DNA’s structure, a critical breakthrough in our understanding of the biology of life.

Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) – who made outstanding contributions to our understanding of gravity, space and time.

William (1738-1822) and Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) – a brother and sister astronomy team devoted to uncovering the secrets of the universe.

Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin (1910-1994) – whose research using x-ray crystallography delivered ground-breaking discoveries which shaped modern science and helped save lives.

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) and Charles Babbage (1791-1871) – visionaries who imagined the computer age.

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) – who made discoveries which laid the foundations for technological innovations which have transformed our way of life.

Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) – whose incredible talent for numbers helped transform modern mathematics.

Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) – who uncovered the properties of radiation, revealed the secrets of the atom and laid the foundations for nuclear physics.

Frederick Sanger (1918-2013) – whose pioneering research laid the foundations for our understanding of genetics.

Alan Turing (1912-1954) – whose work on early computers, code-breaking achievements and visionary ideas about machine intelligence made him one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century.

About Alan Turing

From the shortlist, the Governor chose Alan Turing.

Front of the note

Back of the note

Alan Turing provided the theoretical underpinnings for the modern computer. While best known for his work devising code-breaking machines during WWII, Turing played a pivotal role in the development of early computers first at the National Physical Laboratory and later at the University of Manchester. He set the foundations for work on artificial intelligence by considering the question of whether machines could think. Turing was homosexual and was posthumously pardoned by HM Queen Elizabeth II having been convicted of gross indecency for his relationship with a man. His legacy continues to have an impact on both science and society today.

Design features on the note

The new £50 note, our first £50 printed on polymer, will celebrate Alan Turing and his pioneering work with computers. As shown in the concept image, the design on the reverse of the note will feature:

  • A photo of Turing taken in 1951 by Elliott & Fry which is part of the Photographs Collection at the National Portrait Gallery.
  • A table and mathematical formulae from Turing’s seminal 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem” Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. This paper is widely recognised as being foundational for computer science.  It sought to establish whether there could be a definitive method by which any theorem could be assessed as provable or not using a universal machine. It introduced the concept of a Turing machine as a thought experiment of how computers could operate.
  • The Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) Pilot Machine which was developed at the National Physical Laboratory as the trial model of Turing’s pioneering ACE design. The ACE was one of the first electronic stored-program digital computers.
  • Technical drawings for the British Bombe, the machine specified by Turing and one of the primary tools used to break Enigma-enciphered messages during WWII.
  • A quote from Alan Turing, given in an interview to The Times newspaper on 11 June 1949: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”
  • Turing’s signature from the visitor’s book at Bletchley Park in 1947, where he worked during WWII.
  • Ticker tape depicting Alan Turing’s birth date (23 June 1912) in binary code. The concept of a machine fed by binary tape featured in the Turing’s 1936 paper.

How we choose who goes on notes

We make the decision based on the characters’ strengths, not how many nominations they get. We also take account of who we’ve chosen in the past, because we want to make sure we feature a wide diversity of people and fields on our notes. 

The Governor has responded to a letter from Helen Grant MP about the diversity considerations throughout the character selection process. 

Find out more about choosing banknote characters.

School design challenge

We had set a challenge for schools to design their own banknotes and nominate the next character to appear on the £50 note.

Thank you for the fantastic response – there were some very well designed entries.

Here are our favourites of Alan Turing – chosen by our very own banknote designers.

£50 banknote design by Wills Hewitt aged 9

Sent in from Debbie Hewitt on behalf of Wills Hewitt.

“This design has been carefully created using many of the elements from our Bank of England notes; a large centre portrait of Turing, the Queen’s portrait in the see-through window, a quote by Turing, the serial number and a large £50 denomination numeral in the top right corner. Bletchley Park Mansion is beautifully drawn. A great design!” – Bank of England note designer.

£50 banknote design by Newton Prep School

Sent in from William Hughes at Newton Prep School.

“This design includes many of the elements for a great Bank of England banknote design! The fabulous Turing portrait is very detailed and the Enigma and Bombe in the background are excellent supporting images relating to his scientific achievements. The design is completed with a quote from Turing himself. I love the details of the copyright clause, serial number and window as well as the prominent Bank of England title. Well done!” – Bank of England note designer.

£50 banknote design by The Manor Prep School

Sent in from The Manor Prep school.

“This design focuses on one of the security features of our banknotes by including an interesting shaped see-through window. The large denomination £50’s in the corners are important for the user to identify the value of the note easily. The portrait of Turing is prominent within the design and the Enigma references his significant achievement. A fabulous design!” – Bank of England note designer.

See all of the design nominations on Twitter moments.
This page was last updated 31 January 2023