Bank of England unveils new banknote celebrating WWII codebreaker Turing



LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England has unveiled the design of a new banknote celebrating mathematician Alan Turing, who helped Britain win World War II through his deciphering skills, but who reportedly committed suicide after being convicted of having sex with a male partner.

The new 50-pound note ($ 69) features an image of Turing, mathematical formulas from a 1936 article he wrote that laid the foundation for modern computing, and technical drawings for the machines used for decipher the Enigma code.

The polymer note also contains a quote from Turing on the rise of artificial intelligence: “This is only a taste of what is to come, and only a shadow of what is to be. “

Turing drew on the work of Polish mathematicians who had discovered how to read Germany’s Enigma code, finding a way to decipher the increased security of the Nazi code.

This story was told in the 2014 film The Imitation Game in which Turing was played by actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

Turing’s work led to the decryption of German naval communications that helped Allied convoys avoid submarines and played a crucial role in the Battle of the Atlantic.

He also developed a technique that led to the breakdown of Germany’s more sophisticated Lorenz cipher.

Turing was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for having sex with a man and underwent chemical castration with injections of female hormones to avoid imprisonment. He lost his security clearance to work with the British spy agency GCHQ.

Same-sex relationships were illegal in Britain until 1967.

Turing used cyanide to kill himself in 1954, at the age of 41, according to an investigation conducted at the time. He obtained a royal pardon from Queen Elizabeth in 2013 for the criminal conviction that preceded his death.

“There is something of a nation’s character about its money,” BoE Governor Andrew Bailey said in a statement Thursday, which underscored the scale of Turing’s accomplishments.

“He was also gay and was treated appallingly as a result,” Bailey said. “By placing it on our new 50-pound polymer note, we are celebrating its accomplishments and the values ​​it symbolizes.”

GCHQ chief Jeremy Fleming said the image of Turing on the note was a historic moment.

“Turing was embraced for his genius and persecuted for his homosexuality. Its legacy is a reminder of the value of embracing all aspects of diversity, but also the work we still need to do to become truly inclusive, ”said Fleming.

The BoE announced Thursday that it will fly the rainbow flag from its main building on Threadneedle Street in London.

The 50 pound note is the highest banknote in the BoE. It will enter circulation on June 23, Turing’s birthday.

($ 1 = 0.7290 pounds)

Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Alexandra Hudson


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