Thursday, March 25 marked another step for the United Kingdom in righting the wrongs done to not only the brilliant scientist and war hero Alan Turing but the thousands of British men who were treated as criminals for homosexual acts. The Bank of England unveiled the new £50 polymer note with Turing’s likeness and various aspects of his lifetime of achievements featured on the new banknote set to go into circulation on June 23, Turing’s birthday. To celebrate the occasion, the rainbow flag was flying over the Bank of England on Thursday.
The release of the new £50 note this summer will complete the Bank of England’s transition from cotton paper pound notes to the newer polymer which was implemented as a strategy to combat counterfeiting and maintain confidence in the banknotes.
The currency transition was first announced in 2013 by the Bank of England, with the new £5 note which would feature former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill going into circulation in 2016. A year later, the Bank would issue the new £10 note featuring Jane Austen and in 2019, the new £20 note with artist J.M.W. Turner.
It was announced in 2019 that Turing would be the face of the new £50 note. Turing is best known for his contribution in creating a machine to decrypt coded messages generated by the German military cipher machine, Enigma. Turing’s role in World War II was the subject of the 2014 film The Imitation Game featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing.
Thirteen years after he helped turn the tide in WWII, Turing was arrested and convicted of gross indecency after he was discovered having an affair with a 19-year-old man from Manchester. Instead of a prison sentence, Turing would undergo chemical castration as punishment for his “crime” and died in 1954 from cyanide poisoning. Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013, and in turn, three years later, led to the amendment dubbed “Turing Law,” which pardoned thousands of living British gay and bisexual men who were convicted due to consensual same-sex relationships.