Britain to honor WWII code breaker Alan Turing on new £50

Britain will soon begin issuing new £50 notes featuring World War II code breaker Alan Turing, the Bank of England announced Monday.

Turing, a member of the gay community and a pioneer in early computer development, committed suicide in 1954. Image courtesy Bank of England

The computer science pioneer and mathematician is perhaps best known for cracking Germany’s Enigma code during the war. A gay Briton, he was later persecuted and committed suicide in 1954 by cyanide poisoning.

Turing will appear on the back of the new £50 when it goes into circulation in 2021. Queen Elizabeth II will remain on the front of the bill, where she’s been since 1981. British business icons Matthew Boulton and James Watt will be replaced on the back.

“Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today,” Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney said Monday. “As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as [a] war hero, Alan Turing contributions were so far ranging and path breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulder so many now stand.”

Turing was considered an instrumental pioneer in the development of early computers.

“He set the foundations for work on artificial intelligence by considering the question of whether machines could think,” Carney added.

Nephew Dermot Turing challenged a popular notion his uncle was too intelligent for his own good and difficult to get along with.

“I’ve seen two facets of him, actually, after talking to the people who have worked with him,” Turing told Sky News. “You’ve got a picture of somebody who is actually quite congenial, who has a wicked sense of humor, and is certainly not somebody who is too nerdy to know whether he is being invited to lunch or not.”

ByNicholas Sakelaris