News

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

Alan Turing was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 and given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013.

Alan Turing was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 and given a posthumous royal pardon in 2013. Image: Bank of England

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. 

Lockdowns have taken income away from hundreds of Big Issue sellers. Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription. 

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.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
FOSO is the new FOMO: Why are we so afraid to switch off and be out of office?
Work

FOSO is the new FOMO: Why are we so afraid to switch off and be out of office?

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'
dwp pip/ disabled person
Disability benefits

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP
dwp jobcentre
Department for Work and Pensions

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned
Green transition

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know