Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing to feature on new £50 note
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Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing to feature on new £50 note

Enigma maths genius who sponsored Jewish refugees from the Nazis after Kristallnacht, heralded for his work ending the war and on modern computers

Concept of the new Fifty Pound featuring Second World War code-breaker Alan Turing. (Photo credit should read: Bank of England/PA Wire)
Concept of the new Fifty Pound featuring Second World War code-breaker Alan Turing. (Photo credit should read: Bank of England/PA Wire)

Second World War code-breaker Alan Turing will be the next person to feature on the £50 note, the Bank of England has confirmed.

The genius, who sponsored two Jewish refugee children from Austria and helped educate them in the UK, was announced at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester.

Turing helped break the German Enigma code while working at the top-secret Bletchley Park during the war, saving millions of lives by helping to end the war early.

Today he is known as the father of artificial intelligence and famed for inventing the modern computer, but he and his friend from King’s College, Cambridge, Fred Clayton, also co-sponsored two Jewish boys brought to the UK after Kristallnacht in November 1938.

Clayton and Turing, who was then aged 26, learnt about two Jewish boys at a refugee camp on the coast, at Harwich, having been brought to the UK by Quakers’ Relief Action.

In February 1939 the two men cycled to the camp and agreed to sponsor the boys.

Clayton sponsored a boy from Dresden, known only as Karl, while Turing took responsibility for a boy from Vienna, called Robert Augenfeld.

Robert, or Bob as Turing preferred to call him, wanted to be a chemist and came from a distinguished Viennese family, his father having been aide-de-camp in World War One.

Turing heard that Rossall, a public school in Lancashire, was taking refugee children without a fee and got Bob accepted. The maths prodigy took a great deal of interest in Bob’s subsequent education and career, even as Britain was waging war with Germany.

Alan Turing at Bosham in 1939 with two Jewish refugee boys he rescued from Nazi Germany (Rex Shutterstock)

Following the announcement that Turing will feature on the £50 note, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney also revealed the imagery depicting Turing and his work that will be used for the reverse of the note.

It will feature a quote from Turing, given in an interview to the Times newspaper on June 11 1949: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

The new polymer £50 note is expected to enter circulation by the end of 2021.

Turing was homosexual and was posthumously pardoned by the Queen, having been convicted of gross indecency for his relationship with a man.

The mathematician was chosen following the Bank’s character selection process which included advice from scientific experts.

In 2018, the Banknote Character Advisory Committee chose to celebrate the field of science on the £50 note, and members of the public were invited to put forward names over a six-week period.

The Bank received a total of 227,299 nominations, covering 989 eligible figures. A shortlist was drawn up by the committee, with the Governor making the final decision.

Those considered alongside Turing were Stephen Hawking, Mary Anning, Paul Dirac, Rosalind Franklin, William Herschel and Caroline Herschel, Dorothy Hodgkin, Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, James Clerk Maxwell, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Ernest Rutherford, and Frederick Sanger.

Mr Carney said: “Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today.

“As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as war hero, Alan Turing‘s contributions were far-ranging and path-breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”

The new design will feature a photo of Turing taken in 1951, as well as a table and mathematical formulae from a 1936 paper by Turing which is widely recognised as being a foundation for computer science and technical drawings for the British Bombe – one of the main methods used to break Enigma-enciphered messages during the Second World War.

Turing’s signature from the visitors’ book at Bletchley Park in 1947, where he worked during the war, will also be included, alongside ticker tape depicting Turing’s birth date – June 23 1912 – in binary code.

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