Alan Mathison Turing, the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence, is being honoured with his portrait on the new £50 note in the UK. It is coming out on June 23rd, what would have been Turing’s 93rd birthday.
Turing’s groundbreaking work code-breaking at Bletchley Park is thought to have brought WWII to an end four years early and saved the lives of an estimated 14 to 21 million. Turing was also a gay man who, in 1952, was put on trial in the UK for his homosexuality, then described as “acts of gross indecency”. He was convicted and sentenced to chemical castration. His conviction meant he lost his security clearance and was forced to stop work at Bletchley Park.
In 1954, at the age of 41, Turing was found dead in his home from cyanide poisoning. An inquiry concluded it was suicide, though some historians suggest that it may have been accidental through careless storage of chemicals. He was never celebrated for his work during his lifetime because of the Official Secrets Acts which meant he could not talk about his work.
On 24 December 2013, Queen Elizabeth II signed a pardon for Turing’s conviction for “gross indecency”. A amnesty law was passed, informally known as the Alan Turing Law, to pardon men who were cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts in England and Wales. More than 49 000 people have been pardoned under this law.
New British £50 Note
The new has a portrait of Turing along with some other notable elements including images of:
- A matrix table and mathematical formula
- ACE (Automated Computing Engine) Pilot Machine, one of the first designs for a stored-program computer
- Binary code
- Bombe technical drawings, a machine that could break the German Enigma code
- Technical drawings from the ACE Progress Report.
- A Quote from 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, taken from the visitor’s signature book on display at Bletchley Park Trust.