Alan Turing – the face of the new £50 note

Graham Cluley

Turing note

Turing note

The Bank of England has announced that Alan Turing’s face will grace the new £50 note.

Turing, as if anyone reading this website needs to know, was the English mathematician and computer scientist who worked at Bletchley Park during World War II, developing a pioneering electro-mechanical device (known as “The Bombe”) which dramatically sped up the cracking of secret messages encypted by Germany’s cypher machine Enigma.

Turing’s work is regarded by historians as vital to the war effort, helping to shorten the conflict by perhaps two years.

Turing was a pioneer of computer science, but his achievements and immense contribution at Bletchley Park were not publicly recognised in his lifetime due to the nature of the work being classified top secret.

Turing’s place as one of the founding fathers of modern computing was secured, however, with a paper published in 1950, proposing a test which could test machine intelligence.

Turing test paper

Turing’s idea was that rather the question “Can machines think?” could be replaced with one that asked “Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?”

Everytime you complete an online CAPTCHA form, you’re effectively a contestant in the imitation game, referred by a website that is trying to determine if you are a genuine human or a bot.

Tragically, the establishment treated Turing disgracefully in the years after the war. In 1952, Turing was convicted of “gross indecency” (male homosexuality was illegal in England until 1967), and – rather than be sent to prison – the mathematical genius chose to be chemically castrated.

Turing’s security clearance was revoked and he was barred from working for GCHQ. In June 1954, at the age of 41, Turing killed himself by poisoning himself with cyanide.

It took over 50 years for the British government to apologise and give Turing a posthumous pardon.

It’s too little and too late, of course, to make up for the horrendous way that Turing was treated by the establishment. But it’s a good thing that he has been honoured as one of the country’s greatest scientists by becoming the face of the new £50 note.

You might be amused by this rather bonkers video produced by the Bank of England, unveiling the new note.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

3 Replies to “Alan Turing – the face of the new £50 note”

  1. Although the people voted for Turing and others, the Establishment decided who it would be and where the Establishment have ultimately a great deal to answer for his final demise. Hypocrites comes clearly into play as usual.

    The ‘Establishment’ Makes Amends but where the ‘Establishment’ does not change its spots when it comes to its own – https://worldinnovationfoundation.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-establishment-makes-amends-but_720.html

  2. This is only a foretaste of what is to come
    and only the shadow of what is going to be.

  3. What else might Alan Turing have accomplished had he not been driven to suicide by his treatment at the hands of the State?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.