Alan Turing To Be The Face Of Fifty Quid

The Bank of England has announced that the new face of the £50 note is to be Alan Turing. This news follows a round of public nominations for a scientist to fill the space, and Turing was in the running with some stiff competition from the likes of Stephen Hawking and Ada, Countess Lovelace.

The fifty is not a note you’ll see very often even if you’re a Brit, it’s the one you’ll usually only come into contact with if you’ve bought a second-hand car, but the importance of this move goes beyond whether or not the note will be proffered at the bar for a foaming pint of mild ale. It’s not an honour that is handed out lightly, and it is particularly poignant in the case of Turing who despite his wartime codebreaking and genesis of the discipline of computer science was disgraced and pushed to suicide in the 1950s when he was discovered to be gay.

Will Hardware Pictured on the Bill Be as Famous as Turing Himself?

The bank has not yet set the engravers to work, but they have generated this mock-up that features alongside Turing himself a table from a Turing machine example superimposed on a picture of an early computer rack. We don’t think it’s EDSAC or Manchester Baby, it’s not a Bombe and it definitely shouldn’t be Colossus as he had little to do with it, but we are sure that among our readers will be someone who can provide a positive identification. We hope that whatever the final design may be, it does justice to Turing’s legacy.

24 thoughts on “Alan Turing To Be The Face Of Fifty Quid

    1. If you follow the first link, the Bank of England have a list of what’s visible on the note, and they say:
      “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.”
      Scroll down to the “Design features on the note” section.

    1. I dont think they will, by right 50s should be the new 20s right now. but they are not as less and less people carry cash. I own a garage, so usually have a bit of cash on me for paying for parts etc (quickco aka FORD wont accept card payments! CASH or nothing lol and if you want a drawing, you better have a FAX machine!!) god forbid I hand someone a 50 in a shop, you’d think the world had ended as 10 managers call a meeting to verify its authenticity. for that reason I have to carry an un-necesary amount of 20s.

      Cash is dying, its a shame, not sure if i want hookers and blow on my credit card statement.

    2. We change our money relatively frequently here in the UK, old notes and coins cease to be legal a short while after the introduction of new ones. So in 40-50 years Alan Turing won’t be on the notes… if we even have notes by then.

      1. You cant even spend a Scottish 20 in London today, and thats if they can even understand what im asking for haha feel your pain tho I dare say the political climate didnt help you !

    3. Nah, more transactions – smaller and larger – are moving to contactless.
      Hardly ever see a £50. Saw one a couple of weeks ago, but was the first time for years. A friend was given it in pay for a job he was doing for someone posh. Lots of shops wont take them, but the Bar staff only accepted it because they knew him.

  1. The Bank of England press releases states…

    “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.”

    1. I wondered the same, so checked it big endian and littl endian, but its much simpler 1010111111110010110011000 is 23061912 just a direct translation. its turings birthday. apparently.

  2. I work in the gaming machine industry, developing drivers for note acceptors etc. I’ve only ever seen one £50 note, and that was a test specimen at work….and that was the only one we had.

    1. I used to work in a pub, getting paid cash in hand, and I once got a £50 in my pay. It was after the horse racing so clearly someone had been in spending their winnings. I would have kept it as a souvenir, but, well, it is fifty quid.
      I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than one or two £50 notes since.

  3. Pounds, Euros, Dollars…50’s 20’s 10’s….years down the line we will all be paying each other in Satoshis or something very similar. :-) (Neither governments nor criminals (there’s a difference?) can counterfeit those and you don’t have to ask “the man” for permission to hold or give them out. :-) )

    1. All currencies – digital or otherwise – are subject to laws. Getting paid in bitcoin doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay tax, it just makes your tax return much more complicated. And potentially expensive if the volatile currency moves between being paid and being taxed.

      Plus, I understand that the whole chain can be manipulated if you’ve got enough processing power – the two contenders being criminals (botnets), and state actors. Which I understand goes beyond counterfeiting to undo transactions?

      1. Barter exchanges are also subject to tax. There’s a section about it on
        To sum it up: you can pay me a with a 2.2kg joint of beef, and HMRC will still demand their pound of flesh.

    1. Think your best bet would be getting someone in the UK to take one out of a bank and send it to you. No doubt people will be selling them online. When the £5 notes rolled out they were first available from banks in select UK cities. I picked one up on the first day from Lloyds in Cardiff, so I assume the roll-out for these will be similar.

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