Bank of England releases new banknote honouring codebreaker, Alan Turing

Bank of England unveils a brand new £50 banknote which honours World War II codebreaker, Alan Turing.

To commemorate Alan Turing, The Bank of England has released a brand new version of the £50 banknote featuring the face of Alan Turing on the front.

The mathematician was celebrated for his work, particularly the codebreaking skills that laid the foundations for modern computing and helped end World War II.

Alan Turing
Image: The New York Times

The banknote’s design was unveiled Thursday ahead of its formal release on June 23, Turing’s birthday. The note is the last in the bank’s collection to switch from paper to a new polymer material. The switch enables the notes to last longer and features advanced security, which will allow the notes to be more difficult to counterfeit.

The new polymer set also features Winston Churchill and Jane Austen. The bank says that the new set is its “most secure yet”, this is very fitting considering Turing was an infamous codebreaking legend.


The note carries a quote from Turing about the rise of machine intelligence, “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

At the age of 41, Alan Turning tragically died by suicide – in which he was previously persecuted and forced to undergo hormone treatment due to his homosexuality. Up until 1967, gay sex was illegal in Britain. According to an inquest into his death, Turing used cyanide to kill himself in 1954. It wasn’t his codebreaking that got him prosecuted, rather his sexuality, in which he was subject to severe punishment.

During his time alive, Turing was unapologetic in who he was, even whilst receiving treatment for his sexuality that would chemically castrate him. His work as a codebreaker, especially during the war, saved an estimate of 14 to 28 million lives. In 2013, he was granted a pardon by Queen Elizabeth for the ‘criminal conviction’ that preceded his death.

£50 notes are the largest form of banknote in the UK, although rarely used in day-to-day exchanges, the note remains to be in circulation around the country. The new note will be issued on Turing’s birthday – the 23rd of July.