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Alan Turing honoured on £50 note in ‘landmark moment’ for LGBT+ history

Notes entering circulation later this year feature Alan Turing, the groundbreaking computer scientist, and references to his work

The Bank of England has unveiled a £50 note featuring World War 2 codebreaking pioneer and “iconic LGBT+ figure” Alan Turing.

The note will enter circulation on June 23, coinciding with what would have been Turing’s birthday.

The scientist’s appearance on the £50 note is a “landmark moment in our history”, according to GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming.

“Not only is it a celebration of his scientific genius which helped to shorten the war and influence the technology we still use today, it also confirms his status as one of the most iconic LGBT+ figures in the world,” Fleming said.

Turing cracked the Enigma code used to write German naval messages, allowing Allied forces to read them during the war. His groundbreaking work was credited with bringing forward the end of the war and stopping further deaths but he suffered in later life.

The Dorset-born academic was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for his relationship with a 19-year-old man in Manchester and was handed a sentence of chemical castration instead of prison time, forcing him to take female hormones. 

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He died two years later, aged 41, and his death was recorded as suicide. Turing was given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013.

“Turing was embraced for his brilliance and persecuted for being gay,” Fleming added. “His 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.”

The notes also feature a number of references to his life and career including a string of ticker tape depicting his birthday in binary code, technical drawings for decryption device the British Bombe, and a quote from Turing given in an interview to The Times in 1949: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

In keeping with Turing’s legacy, the Bank of England dubbed the notes their “most secure” yet.

“He was a leading mathematician, developmental biologist and a pioneer in the field of computer science,” said Andrew Bailey, Bank of England governor.

“He was also gay, and was treated appallingly as a result. By placing him on our new polymer £50 banknote, we are celebrating his achievements, and the values he symbolises.”

British spy agencies banned LGBT+ staff from joining their workforce until the early 1990s.

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) released its “most difficult puzzle ever” linked to the new banknote, with the 12 riddles estimated to take seven hours to complete.

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